Biodiversity: the curious case of the 'extinct' fish that returned to the wild

“It’s just a small fish, without many colors and doesn’t arouse much interest in terms of global conservation”, explains Gerardo Garcia.

The species mentioned by the conservationist at Chester Zoo, in England, it’s the tequila fish, which reappeared nearly two decades after it was declared extinct.

“Disappeared” since 2003, Zoogoneticus tequila has recently reappeared in rivers in southwestern Mexico.

The reintroduction is being touted as an example of how ecosystems and freshwater species can be saved.

Freshwater habitats are some of the most threatened on Earth, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with dependent freshwater species “extinguishing- faster than terrestrial or marine wildlife.”

Threats, such as pollution, continue to put pressure not only on wildlife, but also on fresh water and health. erta of foods that depend on rivers and lakes.

The local community (people who live near the release site of tequila fish in the Mexican state of Jalisco) is playing a key role in monitoring the quality of the water from rivers and lakes.

Professor Omar Dominguez of the Michoacana University of Mexico, whose team took a leading role in the reintroduction, said: “We couldn’t have done this without the local population – they are they do long-term conservation.”

“And this is the first time that a species of fish considered extinct has been successfully reintroduced in Mexico. So it’s a real milestone for conservation. It’s a project that has already set an important precedent for the future conservation of many of the country’s fish species that are threatened or even extinct in the wild, but that rarely come to our attention.”

Although conservationists initially released 1.500 fish, they say the population is now expanding into the river system.

It’s a project (and a partnership) between conservationists from Mexico and the United Kingdom dating back decades.

In 1998, at the beginning of the project, scientists from the Aquatic Biology Unit of the Michoacana University of Mexico received five pairs of fish from Chester Zoo, delivered by English hobbyist Ivan Dibble.

These ten fish have founded a new colony in the university laboratory, which experts have maintained there and expanded on 40 following years.

In preparation for reintroduction, 15 males and 15 females from the colony were released into large lakes a bred at the university, essentially to train captive-bred fish preparing them for a wild environment with floating food resources, potential competitors, parasites and predators.

After four years, it was estimated that this population increased to 10 a thousand individuals and became the source for reintroduction into nature.

Hopefully it can be a model for other species of fresh water, including chock, a close relative of the axolotl salamander, which lives in just one lake in northern Mexico and faces very similar threats.

This unique amphibian, which according to local culture has properties healing, was saved from extinction, in part, by a local group of nuns who run a captive animal breeding facility.

“This just shows,” says Gerardo Garcia, “that animals can be re-adapt to nature when reintroduced at the right time and in the right environments”.

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