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Fish that went extinct in the wild is reintroduced after decades

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Scientists and residents of western Mexico have successfully brought an extinct species of fish back from the wild – but kept in captivity – to its natural habitat.

Splitfin tequila or Zoogoneticus tequila swam in a river in western Mexico, but became extinct in the 1990s.

Its success is now closely linked to the identity of the community and is praised internationally.

The project began over two decades ago in Teuchitlan, a town near the Tequila volcano.

Half a dozen students, including Omar Dominguez, began to worry about the small fish that held in the palm of one hand and had only ever been seen in the Teuchitlan River. It had disappeared from local waters, apparently due to pollution, human activities and the introduction of non-native species.

Mr Dominguez, now a 47-year-old researcher at the University of Michoacan, said that at the time only the elderly remembered the fish, called “gallito” or “little rooster” because of its tail. orange.

In 1998, environmentalists from Chester Zoo in the UK and other European institutions arrived to help set up a Mexican fish conservation laboratory. They brought several pairs of Tequila splitfin fish from collectors’ aquariums, Dominguez said.

A fish that died out in Mexico over 15 years ago has been reintroduced to its old stronghold.  The tequila fish (Zoogoneticus tequila), a small species of fish that does not exceed 70mm in length, completely disappeared from the wild in 2003 due to the introduction of invasive alien fish species and pollution of the water.  Today, ecologists at Chester Zoo and Mexico's Michoacana University have teamed up to bring back more than 1,500 fish to a series of sources in the Teuchitl ?? n River in southern Jalisco state. -western Mexico.  The project was cited as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions ???  with recent scientific studies confirming that fish are already thriving and reproducing in the river.  Experts say he created a plan for the future.

The tequila fish (Zoogoneticus tequila) is a small species of fish that does not exceed 70mm in length (Supplier: Chester Zoo)

The fish began to reproduce in aquariums, and within a few years, Mr. Dominguez and his colleagues made the bet of reintroducing them into the Teuchitlan river.

β€œThey told us it was impossible, (that) when we returned them they were going to die,” he said.

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

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

A fish that died out in Mexico over 15 years ago has been reintroduced to its old stronghold.  The tequila fish (Zoogoneticus tequila), a small species of fish that does not exceed 70mm in length, completely disappeared from the wild in 2003 due to the introduction of invasive alien fish species and pollution of the water.  Today, ecologists at Chester Zoo and Mexico's Michoacana University have teamed up to bring back more than 1,500 fish to a series of sources in the Teuchitl ?? n River in southern Jalisco state. -western Mexico.  The project was cited as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions ???  with recent scientific studies confirming that fish are already thriving and reproducing in the river.  Experts say he created a plan for the future.

Environmentalists at Chester Zoo and Michoacana University in Mexico have teamed up to bring back more than 1,500 fish to a series of sources in the Teuchitlan River. (Provider: Chester Zoo)

There they studied parasites, microorganisms in the water, interaction with predators, competition with other fish, before introducing the fish into floating cages.

The aim was to restore the fragile balance. For this part, the key was not so much the scientists as the local residents.

β€œWhen I started the environmental education program, I thought they were going to turn a deaf ear to us… and it happened first,” Dominguez said.

A fish that died out in Mexico over 15 years ago has been reintroduced to its old stronghold.  The tequila fish (Zoogoneticus tequila), a small species of fish that does not exceed 70mm in length, completely disappeared from the wild in 2003 due to the introduction of invasive alien fish species and pollution of the water.  Today, ecologists at Chester Zoo and Mexico's Michoacana University have teamed up to bring back more than 1,500 fish to a series of sources in the Teuchitl ?? n River in southern Jalisco state. -western Mexico.  The project was cited as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions ???  with recent scientific studies confirming that fish are already thriving and reproducing in the river.  Experts say he created a plan for the future.

The project was cited as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions. (Provider: Chester Zoo)

But environmentalists have succeeded with patience and years of puppet shows, games, and explanations of the ecological and health value of Zoogoneticus tequila – the fish help control the mosquitoes that spread dengue.

A group of children trained the β€œGuardians of the River” to collect litter, clean the river and remove invasive plants.

Mr Dominguez said the whole ecosystem has improved. The river is cleaner, there are fewer non-native species, and cattle are no longer allowed to drink in some areas.

The fish quickly multiplied inside their floating cages.

Then they were marked to be followed and released at the end of 2017. In six months, the population increased by 55%. By the last month, the fish had spread to another part of the river.

A fish that died out in Mexico over 15 years ago has been reintroduced to its old stronghold.  The tequila fish (Zoogoneticus tequila), a small species of fish that does not exceed 70mm in length, completely disappeared from the wild in 2003 due to the introduction of invasive alien fish species and pollution of the water.  Today, ecologists at Chester Zoo and Mexico's Michoacana University have teamed up to bring back more than 1,500 fish to a series of sources in the Teuchitl ?? n River in southern Jalisco state. -western Mexico.  The project was cited as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions ???  with recent scientific studies confirming that fish are already thriving and reproducing in the river.  Experts say he created a plan for the future.

Tequila splitfin used to swim in a river in western Mexico, but went extinct in the 1990s (Provider: Chester Zoo)

Chester Zoo said in a statement: “The project has been cited as a case study for successful global reintroductions by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – recent scientific studies confirming that fish thrive and are already breeding in the river. ‘

“This is an important moment in the battle for species conservation,” said Gerardo Garcia, curator of the Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates Zoo.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists Tequila splitfin as endangered. Mexico’s freshwater ecosystems are under pressure from pollution, overuse of water resources, and other factors.

More than a third of the 536 assessed freshwater fish species in the country are threatened with extinction, according to a 2020 report led by IUCN and ABQ BioPark in the United States.

Back in Mexico, Mr. Dominguez and his team are already starting to work on another fish considered to be extinct in the wild: the Skiffia francesae, or golden skiffia.

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