“The cutest, what?” we’ve heard many of you ask, so we thought it was only right to give you a proper introduction! Besides being the favorite plush toy of Adri - the lead character in our first picture book - Hermelindo is also an axolotl (also spelled ajolote); a salamander that lives in Lake Xochimilco in Mexico and is under extinction. But this is only a fraction of why we are lovingly obsessed with Hermelindo, and why we later went as far as creating a plush toy that your little ones can own and cuddle with!
So, why do we, and why should you love axolotls and care about the fact that they're under extinction? Here are our top five reasons.
1) The axolotl’s fascinating journey starts from the very reasoning behind the name itself. The “A” is fashioned out of “Atl” which means "water", (since axolotls do live in water!), while the “xolotl” means "dog," after the Xolotl, the dog headed God from Aztec mythology. The Xolotl was responsible to lead dead souls to the underworld. Legend (or better yet, rumor) has it that the Xolotl, fearful that it would be killed, transformed itself into an axolotl and unable to move on land, got trapped in Lake Xochimilco. Well... up until Hermelindo, of course. Hermelindo has left the lake and is ready to visit children’s homes all over the world! :)
2) If you do have your own Hermelindo at home, you're one of the lucky few, so please take good care of him. Outside laboratories and museums, axolotls are only found in Lake Xochimilco. But that's not even half of the problem. The urban sprawl and heavy pollution around the lake are placing the existence in its natural habitat under serious threats.
3) Before the axolotl became endangered, it often made its appearance into the “specials of the day” section in menus. Xochimilco residents would cook and eat axolotls, with a particular preference for axolotl tamales. (Yet another) rumor has it, that you can still try axolotls in in one restaurant in Japan. If you’re ever there, please don’t take Hermelindo to see it - he’ll be super sad to see his family being eaten. :(
4) Axolotls like Hermelindo have regenerative powers - but not your typical amphibian regeneration, where they can (maayyybe) grow back their limbs. Axolotls can regenerate any part of their body without any signs or scars. Think jaw, eyes, and even brain! Because of this, they are one of the most scientifically studied salamanders in the world. Having said that, we wouldn’t recommend trying to cut any part of Hermelindo. He might be the cutest axolotl out there, but when it comes to regeneration, he’s the ugly duckling of the lot!
5) As for our personal favorite? Just like us, no matter how old an axolotl is, it never let goes of its childhood! That's right. Hermelindo's brothers and sisters exhibit neoteny. This means that while most amphibians undergo a metamorphosis during their development, the axolotl grows larger in its larval state, and never gets rid of its gills and fins, like its fellow adult amphibians.
Are your eyes sparkling with love yet, or what? Get your very own Hermelindo to cuddle with, here. We promise he'll never grow up and will always say YES to play!