The headline is: “Desperately Seeking Cichlid: Fish Species Down to Last 3 Males, No Known Females.”
Once upon a time the Mangarahara cichlid (Ptychochromis insolitus) lived in a single habitat: a river in Madagascar from which the species gets its name. That river has now been dammed and the habitat has dried up. Today there are just three Mangarahara cichlids left—all males. Two reside at the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) London Zoo Aquarium; the third lives at the Berlin Zoo.
Although the species appears to be extinct in the wild, ZSL London Zoo hopes that somewhere, somehow a female or two might exist in private hands. “We are urgently appealing to anyone who owns or knows someone who may own these critically endangered fish, which are silver in color with an orange-tipped tail, so that we can start a breeding program here at the zoo to bring them back from the brink of extinction,” aquarium curator Brian Zimmerman said in a press release last week.
The zoo has already reached out to other facilities around the world, with no luck. Now the only hope lies in private aquarium owners, fish collectors and hobbyists who might see the zoo’s appeal and realize that they own a female cichlid. The zoo has even set up a dedicated e-mail address for anyone with information: [email protected].
Of course you can’t count on the market alone, as there are cultural preconditions for cooperation:
…even if a female does turn up, breeding won’t be guaranteed. Zimmerman told the BBC News that the Berlin Zoo used to have a female that it had hoped to breed with its male. Instead, the male killed its potential mate. “It’s a fairly common thing with cichlids,” Zimmerman said.
We’ll see how the supply elasticity works out on this one…
For the pointer I thank Chris MacDonald.