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[Killietalk] Lessons learned on managing species - don't mistake conservation populations for hoarding
Yesterday marked 14 years since I moved into my house and its opportunities.
About a year earlier I declared a business venture, the Central Appalachian
Refugium and Center for New World Killifish Research and Conservation
(CARCNWKRC as you might see) -- nothing earth shaking but I wanted to work
with conserving killifish especially after attending a few conservation based
meetings as well as visiting Ash Meadows and talking with the range
biologist. A few more meetings and false starts finally got me going down
the right path. I had equipment I had acquired from 20 years of killie
keeping and now I had more space then I had ever imagined. What I would like
to relate is efforts to maintain three extinct in the wild pupfish.
I dabbled with Cyp. alvarezi a couple of times prior to moving to Maryland,
both times without much success. I acquired them again in early 1994, now
with a little bit better knowledge on how to handle pupfish. I was
successful and produced a batch of over 50 fish and reared them for the '95
summer season. That summer I collected over 3000 eggs from 16 tanks I set up
in my "greenhouse". I probably reared 3-400 of the fry to adulthood but I
wintered the first generation and got a bunch more fry the next summer. I
now had a few hundred fish and a crunch in space of where to winter these
fish. I sold probably well over a hundred fish and sent alot away in trades.
I also believe I tried for a 3rd summer to get more offsprings out of my
"F-1's" before I set up the "F-2's" so I wouldn't mix generations. I took it
for granted that the fish would always be there and they would be easy to
"kick in" anytime. I used my summer breeding space for other fish and left
the numbers of adult alvarezi dwindle down to a couple of dozen fish. By the
time I set them up again I was down to just a few 4 year old fish. It was a
struggle but a late summer burst got me a fair number of eggs and a lesson
learned to manage these fish properly. You can never assume you will always
have a species and if there ain't no mo', you will never see them again. The
wake up call occurred to me when I saw the species reporting on the world
wide effort to maintain Cyp. alvarezi, virtually everyone who listed having
the fish had them labeled "C1-RG2" which was the code I assigned the fish
bred in my "operation" (C1 = collection #1 traced back to 1979-80 through Al
Castro - John Brill - Buz Allen, RG2 = second generation produced fish -
those few hundred F-2's I mentioned earlier). While I have since obtained
stock from two other collections, almost all of the alvarezi in the hobby
today have come from my tanks. From that moment of realization on I have
vowed to do what ever I can to avoid dropping back to those critical numbers
- no artificial bottle necking of this species again. I didn't breed my fish
last year, unfortunately, giving up space to other pupfish projects (like the
other two collections) figuring I had at least one more season in my "RG3's"
and "RG4" after that. Wrong again, the "3's" went in mid summer and I
succeeded in losing a high percentage of the fall back "4's". While there
are still about 100 "4's", they will all go into producing "RG5's" this
summer and hopefully a fair number to distribute in 2008.
Cyp. veronicae and longidorsalis are also extinct in the wild. It took me
about 6 years and 4 different tries to finally establish veronicae in my
tanks. The first generation was pretty easy and I got two summers out of the
original adults. Unfortunately I got careless and passed out a lot of
"RG1's" and quickly retrenched placing the remaining fish into production and
getting a healthy batch of "RG2's". Now the remnants of that group is set
for the summer of 2007 to augment the 200+ RG3's produced last summer. The
longidorsalis took 3 tries but the last success was from a pair from the 2002
DKG show. I got three summers out of them and a few hundred offsprings. I
had losses and I gave away most of the these RG1's but have retained about 20
adults for the 2007 summer, that to augment the 2-300 crop of RG2's from last
summer. I believe both of these species are from a very few specimens
brought into this country or from a few eggs obtained from German keepers.
I report my numbers not as a boast but as awareness. For all three species,
among the members of our Cyprinodon maintenance group, my numbers account for
30-70% of the fish of these three extinct in the wild species we know to
exist. For most of us, we aren't looking for profit but desire that the
species continue to survive. Fish go to shows for distribution purposes and
when we can provide them, most often interested parties can get a dozen or so
group of young starter fish to get your own colony established. It takes
some dedication and use of equipment to honor that commitment, but species
maintenance is facilities management and stock management and sticking to
priorities as well as planning effectively and establishing long term goals.
I acquire a lot of other killies but don't dedicate the time to them I
should, but my priorities are for working with the hardwater killies,
primarily pupfish and Aphanius (old world "pupfish") and their related
species. There are a lot of species to tackle and it seems like I am
hoarding them. It isn't the case. It takes about 2 generations before the
fish become "predictable" and can be moved on. About this time of year I am
facing a space crunch with 6-8 month old young fish from some successful
species. I usually provide fish in lots of 6-15 young fish, not always sexed
out. Unfortunately, everyone seems to want adults ready-to-spawn or only
look to acquire when they can physically see what they might be getting.
Contact me off line if you are interested in working with these fish.
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