Wanted – please not dead, but alive! In 2013, London Zoo launched an almost desperate international appeal. The search was for an approximately 15-centimeter-long, high-backed fish with a blueish-gray to silver-gold body coloration and scattered dark spots of various sizes. Distinguishing characteristics: The fin margins of adult males exhibit reddish coloration.
Caring Fish Parents
Caring Fish Parents
The Mangarahara cichlid was only scientifically described in 2006. In its native Madagascar, however, people have known it for a long time. It is so conspicuous, in fact, that it has been given its own local name – not necessarily common for small freshwater fish: “Joba Mena” it is called, which means “red girl”. Because of the red fins of the males. But genders are increasingly valued as social constructs anyway.
Last Refuge in the Amboaboa Basin
The rarest fish in the world
The natural range of the Mangarahara cichlid is restricted to the Mangarahara River and a few other tributaries of the Sofia River in the northwest of the island of Madagascar. With such small-scale occurrences, it only needs one occurrence for the survival of the entire species to be threatened. And then something occurred: Due to the increasing demand for water in agriculture, especially for rice cultivation, dams were built, which led to the drying up of the home waters of the Mangarahara cichlid. It was assumed that this species was thus extinct in the wild.
In the meantime, a large project for the protection of the endangered fish species of the Amboaboa Basin has been established on site
The Amboaboa Valley | Charles Fusari
After the appeal for help mentioned previously, the Madagascan hotel owner and fish lover Guy Tam Hyock got in touch. He had heard of a hitherto unknown occurrence of the fish in a largely dried-up section of the river in the Amboaboa Basin. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Toronto Zoo and the University of Antananarivo immediately launched a search operation. In 2013, 18 animals were discovered – in what had become a pond of poor water quality. The fish were immediately caught and handed over to Guy Tam Hyock in Andapa for breeding – in the meantime, a large local project for the protection of the endangered fish species of the Amboaboa Basin has emerged.
It is of particular importance to involve the local population. That is why Fish Net Madascar works together with the local NGO Madagasikara Voakajy to convince people to treat the river with care and to involve them in the conservation projects. | Fish Net Madagascar
A new hope
In order to strengthen the “Fish Net Madagascar” project internationally, offspring of the fish initially went to Toronto, where further reproduction was successful. In 2019, the Cologne Zoo took over 30 specimens from there. The first European offspring was then successfully bred in Cologne. More should follow. In the meantime, young animals could be passed on to various zoological institutions. Together with Citizen Conservation, a conservation breeding network was established in 2020 in order to build up a stable reserve population of this endangered species in captivity outside Madagascar in the long term and with the involvement of private aquarists – in order to prevent another near or even this-time-but-really extinction of the species in the future as safely as possible.