Fish Net Madagascar develops a multidisciplinary approach to species conservation. We promote the joint development of in-situ and ex-situ conservation activities along with community engagement. The work involves multiple parties such as zoological institutions, environmental NGOs, university labs and local communities
Since 2013, populations of Joba mena (Ptychochromis insolitus), Lamena (Paretroplus nourissati) and Zono (Pachypanchax sp. Sofia) are managed in ponds by our partner Association des Producteurs Privés d’Alevins d’Andapa (APPA). They act as insurance populations to prevent these species from becoming extinct. This initiative is collaboratively funded by EUAC (European Union of Aquarium Curators), the American Cichlid Association, Toronto Zoo, the Zoological Society of London and Denver Zoo.
Since 2015, populations of Joba mena (Ptychochromis insolitus), are established and sustained in Zoological institutions such as Toronto Zoo, Cologne Zoo and the Zoological Society of London. These ex-situ breeding programmes reinforced the conservation effort by acting as a temporary rescue and as insurance populations. The fish in these institutions also play a research role that will directly benefit the conservation of the species and an education role to raise awareness of specific threats or constraints to the conservation of the species or their habitat.
Local communities of Marotandrano are managing backup populations of endemic freshwater fish in ponds to create a safety net for the species while working on long terms solutions. The use of endemic local fish species reduces the risk of introduction of alien species in the river but also promotes and raises the profile of the native species often forgotten in the local culture by younger generations. The fish farmed will also be used as a food source, reducing the pressure on the wild population and improving locals’ livelihood. This is championed by the Association des Producteurs Privés d’Alevins d’Andapa (APPA) and funded by a National Geographic grant.
The Amboaboa River headwaters are located within the protected area of the Special Reserve of Marotandrano managed by Madagascar National Parks (MNP). Previous sampling sessions showed the absence of the focal species in this section of the river, for successions of waterfalls and rapids prevent the species from migrating upstream. Fish Net’s plan of action is to work on a translocation feasibility study to establish fish populations upstream where the aquatic habitat is not degraded and subject to anthropogenic pressures. A comprehensive risk assessment following the IUCN guidelines will be conducted to assess the feasibility of an assisted migration and identify potential risks for the species and the habitat host.
Year-round monitoring of aquatic environmental parameters along the Amboaboa River is carried out over two years by MNP rangers. They collect monthly water quality data which gives precious information about seasonal variations and differences between the current fish population location and the potential habitat location up-stream, within the boundaries of the Special Reserve of Marotandrano.
A veterinarian with specific training in wildlife disease and the disease risks of translocation is undertaking a disease risk analysis (DRA) using advanced techniques developed at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) (Sainsbury and Vaughan-Higgins 2012; Bobadilla et al 2017; Rideout et al 2017) and conforming to IUCN Guidelines of Conservation Translocations and the IUCN Procedures in Wildlife Disease Risk Analysis. The work involves assessing the critical points during the translocation pathway when disease hazards will impact on focal species health, an evaluation of the geographical and ecological barriers crossed during the translocation pathway, followed by hazard identification and disease risk assessment. The DRA is championed by the Institute of Zoology at ZSL and is covered by the National Geographic grant.
Fish and habitat monitoring
Regular field expeditions are organised along the Amboaboa River collaboratively with all relevant parties and with the help of local communities to monitor the health of the river and its fish populations. Initial sampling sessions from 2016 to 2018 brought to light the very restricted ranges of the focal species within the Amboaboa River. At its maximum, during the dry season, the area of occupancy of the focal species represents a stretch of approximately 24km out of 75km of river. This 24km stretch is fragmented by dams and high sedimentation areas.
Local environmental NGO Madagasikara Voakajy will undertake a study within local communities along the Amboaboa River to understand their perception of their environment and more particularly the river, its fish species, and the threats they are under. This study should help us to put in place further tailored community-led conservation actions in line with local culture and practices. Madagasikara Voakajy will also undertake an assessment of the dams’ management along the Amboaboa River to fully understand their impact on its health.