There are an unknown number of these animals living on mainland Indo-China. An entire population was discovered in
With fish, however, the situation is even more uncertain. Many of the rarest fish in the world owe their scarcity to a very small and often fragmented habitat. Therefore, it pains us as journalists to have to admit that the five fishes described in this article are almost certainly not the six rarest fishes in the world. However, they are all critically endangered, and each of them is a fascinating creature, which it would be sad to think it might soon be gone for good.
Surprisingly enough if you want to look for one of the world's rarest fish you don't have to travel to the depths of the ocean or air to some uncharted territory at the ends of the Earth. This little fish lives in a clear, cool creek in
It was first discovered in 1912 by two biologists collecting fish in Swan Creek, a fast-flowing stream near Havre de Grace. They named the fish and published their discovery in a scientific journal, whereupon the world promptly forgot all about it. Fifty years later in 1962, a group of graduate students found one near Swan Creek in Gasheys Run. Three years a healthy population was found in Deer Creek, which is where all subsequent records have been made.
The main reason that this fish is so rare is because of its extremely specialised habitat requirements - the riffles (fast-flowing areas, before the flatlands) in that part of a stream where the water tumbles out of the hills onto the relatively flat coastal plain. At one time this tiny species may well have been common in many of the streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay from the
The good news is that the Maryland Darter is an "Indicator Organism," a species whose presence or absence indicates the relative health of a natural ecosystem. The continued existence of the Maryland Darter in Deer Creek indicates that this watercourse is still relatively healthy and clean.
THE BALLINA ANGEL-FISH (Chaetodontoplus ballinae )
This beautiful, small angelfish is widely believed to be one of the rarest fish in a the world. However, the question remains - is it indeed rare, or just very little known?
The type specimen was originally caught and described by Gilbert Whitley in 1959, based on a single specimen collected off Ballina in northern
Again, it seemed that the rarity of this beautiful species is mainly due to its incredibly restricted habitat - the cold, deeper water around coral and rocky reefs in depths between 25-123m. Near Balls Pyramid it was associated with a large, rocky pinnacle encrusted with hard corals. They both have hair main classes threat to its survival has been cited as illegal collecting by the marine aquarium fish trade, where this species would attract high prices due to its rarity and difficulty in collecting.
Maloti Minnow Pseudobarbus quathlambae
The Maloti Minnow is a small fish from the highlands of
Probably the greatest threat to the continuation of the species will come from the Mohale dam. The ultimate opening of Mohale-Katse tunnel threatens the very existence of the species by exposing it to greater possibility as prey to bigger fish, most notably which have been introduced as both a food and a sporting resource. It is also feared that the increased tourism to the region which is planned by the government of the country will perforce bring with it an intolerable level of environmental degradation which will, sadly, reduce the quality of the water in the region so much that the fish will die out.
Luckily, however, all is not lost for this tiny minnow like species. There are other suitable catchments outside Mohale where the small fish could be translocated as part of the LHDA mitigation and conservation plan. The LHDA will ensure that the translocation is not effected in areas where trout is present. the Government of the country should be commended for such a far-sighted action. it is not often that Third World governments pay much attention to the future of a such a small and seemingly insignificant species were charred - after all - of little or no commercial or touristic value. Let's hope that the conservation programme which has been set into action will spur other governments in the region to do likewise.
It is hard to choose only a small number of species from the dozens that are critically endangered to, or feared to be extinct. In the next article we shall be bring you more stories - some good, and some bad - from around the world telling how some of the world's most unique creatures may not survive beyond our own lifetimes.