News College Students Help Threatened Fish Species

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College students help threatened fish species
21st October 2021

By Justine Thompson

Hundreds of rare fish on the Red List of Threatened Species have moved into a new home after a college joined forces with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to help protect them.

Easton College is one of only two agricultural colleges in the country to have been included in ZSL’s freshwater fish breeding programme, based at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Dunstable.

The six species of freshwater fish the students are helping originate from areas in Central and South America. They include the Monterrey Platyfish (extinct in the wild), the Tequila Splitfin (possibly extinct in the wild), and the Butterfly Splitfin (which is critically endangered).

The programme has been set up to tackle the extinction crisis affecting the planet’s freshwater fish – by refining freshwater fish breeding capabilities and housing populations of threatened fish in key facilities as back-up populations.

The fish were delivered to Easton College’s specialist Aquatics Room, housed within its Animal Care Centre, after being carefully transported 116 miles by road under the supervision of ZSL staff.

The aquarium set-ups for these precious fish were designed by students on the zoological pathway of the college’s Level 3 Diploma in Animal Management.

The students had to research each species, understand its requirements and create as naturalistic a home as possible for the fish.

Students from this course, together with animal science degree students, will be involved in the on-going care of the fish, under the expert guidance of the college’s staff.

Jordan Mackay is one of the animal management students who helped prepare the tanks for the arrival of the fish. Jordan said: “The aim with the tanks was to make them as realistic and natural as possible for the fish, to make sure they are comfortable in their enclosure, so they can breed.”

ECOSYSTEM

Animal management student Chandice Wilson added: “These fish do a lot for the natural ecosystem out in the wild. So if we can help keep their numbers up, it means that if anything was to happen to them in the wild we do have a back-up species. It’s really good for
conservation.”

Collaborative breeding is a key part of ZSL’s programme to protect the world’s most threatened and neglected species of freshwater fish.

Easton College’s head of animal and equine, Chris Sturdy, who previously managed the aquariums at SEA LIFE in Great Yarmouth and has more than 10 years’ experience in managing large aquariums, was instrumental in bringing the endangered fish to the college.

Chris said: “Whilst these are some of the little guys of the freshwater fish world, the fact that they are so rare and endangered makes them hugely important. I am very excited that staff and students at Easton College have this opportunity to make a big impact on the future survival of these species.”

Extinction threat for freshwater fish
The six threatened species of freshwater fish now under the care of Easton College are:
• Monterrey Platyfish (Xiphophorus couchianus), native to Mexico, classed as Extinct in the Wild.
• Tequila Splitfin (Zoogoneticus tequila), native to Mexico, classed as Possibly Extinct in the wild.
• Butterfly Splitfin (Ameca splendens), native to Mexico, classed as Critically Endangered.
• Chapultepec Splitfin (Girardinichthys viviparus), native to Mexico, classed as Endangered.
• Balsas Splitfin (Ilyodon whitei) native to Mexico.
• Wild Guppy (Poecilia reticulata), native to Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela. This is a genetically distinct population.
All of these species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.