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The London Zoo’s Brian Zimmerman looks for a cichlid in Madagascar. (Photo: ZSL)

Doomed Species May Be Saved—A Global Search Locates a Female

With this little fish facing down extinction, a global hunt turned up a few remaining wild individuals

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Back in May we told you about the sad fate of the Mangarahara cichlid. Native to the African island of Madagascar, this little fish had had its wild habitat destroyed by dams built to control the Mangarahara river. With its population in the wild wiped out, the Mangarahara cichlid was surviving only in zoos. But unlike some other animals that survive, or even thrive through captive breeding programs, the little cichlid was doomed for a different fate—the three captive cichlids were all males, and with no females in sight, the fish was waiting out its last days as a species.

As a last ditch effort the London Zoo put out a call, a global hunt to find a lady fish, a final chance to overturn the Mangarahara cichlids' seemingly-inevitable fate. The odds were low, but, amazingly, the London Zoo found their fish.

Answering their call, says the Zoo in a release, “was a farm and business owner in Madagascar, who recognised the fish as one he’d seen in a secluded north-Madagascan town.”

A team went down to Madagascar: “After days of searching empty streams, and rapidly losing hope of finding the cichlid, the team visited a tiny village built on the edge of a now-disconnected tributary from the Mangarahara River.

With help from local villagers, areas of water were cordoned off using nets to mark the search areas. Initially finding only other native species, the team were ecstatic when they finally found the first one of the last remaining Mangarahara cichlids in existence.”

According to Science magazine, the Zoo's team caught 18 of the fish, taking them away to be cared for and, hopefully, incorporated into a captive breeding program—a last change to save the Mangarahara cichlid.

One of the wild cichlids. Photo: ZSL

More from Smithsonian.com:

There Are Just Three Males of This Endangered Fish Left, And the London Zoo Is on a Global Hunt to Find a Lady

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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