Abu Dhabi: Efforts to save a critically-endangered fish in South Africa from extinction are to receive support from the Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, it was announced on Sunday.
The river pipefish, syngnathus watermeyeri, found in estuaries in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, is said to be facing imminent extinction because of natural and human threats to the brackish estuaries and local eelgrass beds in which it lives.
It grows to a maximum size of just over 10 centimetres. On two recent occasions, the fish has been thought to be extinct, but recent surveys have found juvenile fish in areas where the species had not been reported for over 40 years.
It has been classified as ‘critically endangered’ on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, because of what is described as “a continued decline in habitat quality and the absence of mature individuals in the latest intensive surveys.” It is estimated that there are now less than 250 animals in total and 50 mature individuals or less in each estuarine subpopulation, with extreme fluctuations.
The multidisciplinary project conservation project will involve intensive field surveys to identify populations of the species and to gather information on the habitat and flows of freshwater in the different estuary systems where the fish is found. A captive breeding programme will also be launched in partnership with the local uShaka Marine World theme park in Durban, with a view to subsequent release of captive-bred fish into all of the estuaries where the species has previously been reported.
The project is being managed by the Centre for Ecological Genomics and Wildlife Conservation at the University of Johannesburg.
Founded in 2008 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has so far given more than $16.5 million in over 1,700 grants for conservation projects for over 1,100 species or sub-species of plants and animals throughout the world.