Mexican fish extinct in wild successfully reintroduced

There once was a small fish called “tequila splitfin” or “zoogoneticus tequila” that swam in a river in western Mexico, but disappeared in the 1990s. Scientists and residents, however, have achieved the return of a species extinct in nature — but conserved in captivity — to its native habitat.

Its success is now intertwined with the community’s identity and being touted internationally.

It began more than two decades ago in Teuchitlán, a town near the Tequila volcano. A half-dozen students, among them Omar Domínguez, began to worry about the little fish that fit in the palm of a hand and had only ever been seen in the Teuchitlán river. It had vanished from local waters, apparently due to pollution, human activities and the introduction of non-native species.

Domínguez, now a 47-year-old researcher at the University of Michoacán, says that then only the elderly remembered the fish called “gallito” or “little rooster” because of its orange tail.

In 1998, conservationists from the Chester Zoo in England and other European institutions arrived to help set up a laboratory for conserving Mexican fish. They brought several pairs of tequila splitfin fish from the aquariums of collectors, Domínguez said.

The fish began reproducing in aquariums and within a few years Domínguez and his colleagues gambled on reintroducing them to the Teuchitlán river. “They told us it was impossible, (that) when we returned them they were going to die.”

So they looked for options. They built an artificial pond for a semi-captivity stage and in 2012 they put 40 pairs there.

Two years later, there were some 10,000 fish. The result guaranteed funding, not only from the Chester Zoo but also a dozen organizations from Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, to move the experiment to the river.

There they studied parasites, microorganisms in the water, the interaction with predators, competition with other fish, and then introduced the fish in floating cages.

The goal was to re-establish the fragile equilibrium. For that part, the key was not so much the scientists as the local residents.

“When I started the environmental education program I thought they were going to turn a deaf ear to us … and at first that happened,” Domínguez said.

But the conservationists succeeded with patience and years of puppet shows, games and explanations about the ecological and health value of “zoogoneticus tequila” — the fish help control mosquitos that spread dengue.

Some residents made up a nickname for the little fish: “Zoogy.” They made caricatures and formed the “River Guardians,” a group mostly of children. They collect garbage, clean the river and remove invasive plants.

Domínguez said it is difficult to say if water quality is better because there is no previous data to compare, but the entire ecosystem has improved. The river is cleaner, there are fewer non-native species and cattle are no longer permitted to drink in some areas.

The fish rapidly multiplied inside their floating cages. Then they were marked so they could be followed and set free. It was late 2017 and in six months the population increased 55%. Last month, the fish had expanded to another part of the river.

The reintroduction into nature of species that were extinct in the wild is complex and time-consuming. Przewalski’s horse and the Arabian oryx are among successful examples. The Chester Zoo said Dec. 29 that the tequila splitfin had joined that small group.

“The project has been cited as an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions – with recent scientific studies confirming the fish are thriving and already breeding in the river,″ the zoo said in a statement.

“This is an important moment in the battle for species conservation,” said Gerardo García, the zoo’s curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates.

The IUCN’s red list of threatened species lists the tequila splitfin as endangered. Mexico’s freshwater ecosystems are under pressure from pollution, over-extraction of water resources and other factors. More than one-third of 536 species of freshwater fish that were assessed in the country are threatened with extinction, according to a 2020 report led by the IUCN and the ABQ BioPark in the United States.

Still, in Mexico, Domínguez and his team are already beginning work on another fish that is considered extinct in the wild: the “skiffia francesae.” The Golden Skiffia could someday join “Zoogy” in the Teuchitlán river.

Subscribe here for just .08 cents per day to read subscriber content, join the PVDN newsletter, and browse with site ad-free. Support local news.

Trending news on PVDN

  • Shooting in Zona Romantica in Puerto Vallarta leaves one dead and at least two injured One person was killed and at least two injured, one of them a police officer, as a result of a shooting in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. The area where the events occurred is one of the busiest in the tourist strip of the city, which is filled with bathers who go to Los Muertos…
  • 45 more buses will join the public transportation service in Puerto Vallarta this week As of this week, 45 more buses will begin to circulate on public transportation in Puerto Vallarta in order to improve service and meet user demand. This was announced by Luis Romero Chávez, president of Transporte Costa-Pacífico UnibusPV, the city’s transport concessionaire. “We brought 45 units from Guadalajara, which will begin to be seen circulating…
  • Puerto Vallarta ranks among the top destinations for American tourists this winter Once again, Puerto Vallarta is in the Top Ten preferred destinations for Americans planning winter vacations. According to a study carried out by the firm Allianz Partners, a company specialized in travel insurance, roadside, home and medical assistance, and administrative services with more than 60 years of experience in the sector. The list is headed…
  • With rebound of COVID cases, Jalisco Health Secretariat recommends return to face masks Due to the drop in temperature, the Ministry of Health reports an increase in infections of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections in Jalisco. A month ago, in the week of November 6 to 12, 229 infections of the new coronavirus were documented; however, in the last week they doubled to 507. The problem is that…
  • Four Mexican soldiers arrested after kidnapping family and demanding ransom In the state of Tlaxcala, a group of Investigative Police (PDI) agents arrested four alleged kidnappers who, when they identified themselves with the authorities, showed credentials from the National Defense Secretariat ( Sedena ), as active military soldiers. This was announced by Ernestina Carro Roldán, head of the State Attorney General’s Office (PGJE) through a…
Puerto Vallarta News

Compare Listings

Title Price Status Type Area Purpose Bedrooms Bathrooms
error: Please contact PVDN if you wish to reprint something from this website