The Killifish Conservation Committee
Killifishes as a group present an incredible degree of diversity that cannot be duplicated in captivity. Nonetheless, there is a significant number of species in the hobby that illustrate the wonderful array of sizes, shapes, colors, survival strategies and behaviors that exist among the killifish species. The number of species available today is the result not only of many decades of wild collections by hobbyists and scientists, but the continual improvement in husbandry techniques and nutrition that have been developed and shared among the killifish community.
Most killifish in the hobby are from undeveloped countries where human-driven extinctions are sure to rise in the future as these countries develop, and ecological concerns will give way to economic development. The countries where habitat degradation is most likely, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Brazil contain some of the richest and most diverse array of killifish in the world. And although wild extinction rates have increased abnormally over this period, the long term extinction trend has had no impact on the sheer number of new species and locations that have entered the hobby. But economic factors are not the whole story. Social unrest and the presence of disease further diminish collecting activities, making such adventures more and more dangerous and expensive.
Taken in the aggregate, we can anticipate the long-term potential for significant reductions in the overall supply of wild killifish. Perhaps more important than the introduction of new species, re-importations of species that were or are now currently in the hobby will likewise be affected, eroding the possibility of reestablishing old lines, and reducing the potential of refreshing the genetic pool among the species we have.
Newly introduced species tend to replace established ones because the hobby is not large enough to absorb the new while maintaining those already in the hobby. Eventually, the decline in wild importations will leave the hobby with the species that had not yet been abandoned, and if decline in new importations becomes very rapid, the diversity remaining within the hobby will consist primarily of the most recent residuals of the then current craze. In any case, it is unlikely that what remains in the hobby as these events unfold will fairly represent the true diversity within the killifish group.
The Killifish Conservation Committee was formed to maintain the character and diversity of the killifish group through the administration of a Core Species and an Emergency Survival program.
The Core Species program facilitates the propagation and maintenance of selected species, designated core species, that are selected to represent, to the greatest extent possible, the diversity of killifish genus and species groups. A breeder team is formed for each core species, and is headed by a coordinator who facilitates the activities of the group. To maintain diversity, team members trade stocks each year, and new specimens are periodically brought into the program. A core species can be maintained indefinitely in this way by the team of at least four breeders, each devoting a few tanks to the program.
The Emergency Survival Program (ESP) provides for the formation of fast reaction teams to address impending loss of a species to the hobby. Their goal is to provide for the survival of a target species and its eventual distribution to the hobby. The ESP Coordinator identifies species that are endangered or already extinct in the hobby or the wild, organizes breeding teams consisting of recognized experts, and establishes breeding populations among them.
The success of the KCC may in part determine the degree of diversity of killifish that remain in the hobby. We cannot know what how successful we will be. We do know that as current trends inexorably continue, some species may come to only exist in our tanks, and many more will pass through our hands forever. And if we can broaden the number we keep, if we can preserve even a handful of species that would otherwise pass into history, then the program will indeed be a success. Now that is a goal to work for. Remember, our motto,
“The only failure is not to try”