Scientists from ZSL travelled to the Anatolian lakes region to collect some threatened pupfish with a team of seven colleagues from Doğa Derneği, Faruk Yaçin Zoo in Istanbul and Hacettepe University in Ankara. The expedition was organised after a previous trip discovered how precarious the species’ survival in the wild has become. At each location a catching strategy had to be developed using a variety of nets and techniques.
The collection contained 40 males and 40 females from five different species, in order to secure long-term genetically stable captive populations in case the species become extinct in their natural habitat.
Ultimately more than 300 pupfish were transported safely back to the zoo in Istanbul and acclimatized to eight specially designed safe, high quality aquariums.
ZSL’s Aquarium Curator Brian Zimmerman said: "Turkey is the centre of Eurasian pupfish diversity with over one third of all species yet more than half of these are listed by IUCN as threatened. Fish Net Turkey is a project that brings together organisations concerned with the plight of freshwater species and who want to prevent their extinction.
"By maintaining secure populations of these extremely vulnerable species in captivity, we can prevent their immediate extinction and buy time for conservationists to rehabilitate their habitats in the wild. Without immediate action we will lose many species forever."
There are around 140 species of pupfish, out of which 37 are endangered and five already extinct. One of the species which conservationists collected was Aphanius transgrediens, the Acigöl pupfish, which was recently highlighted as one of the top 100 most threatened species in the world by IUCN and ZSL. The Acigöl pupfish is currently found in only three zoos in the world – one of which is ZSL London Zoo with the newly created population at Faruk Yalçn being a third location
Prior to this collaboration, there were no conservation efforts for freshwater fish in the Republic of Turkey. Now, ZSL will continue to work with Doğa Derneği, Faruk Yaçin Zoo and Hacettepe University to develop freshwater conservation management plans for each lake that includes a strategy for preventing the extinction of Turkey’s unique fish species.