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Captive breeding for the conservation of cichlid fishes

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Abstract

Cichlid fishes are by far the largest familial group of endangered vertebrates, especially the haplochromines. This paper concerns the organization and management of captive breeding of haplochromine cichlids. The setting up of a small-scale laboratory programme for the conservation of endangered species is described in terms of funding, staffing, installation and livestock husbandry. Breeding is discussed in the context of the selection of broodstock, basic reproductive biology, rearing, disease, pathological disorders and the arrangements necessary for the transfer and documentation of progeny. There are already indications in Africa and elsewhere that the dramatic decline and demise of cichlid taxa in Lake Victoria will not be an isolated phenomenon. There is no prospect that the captive breeding of cichlids can alone resolve such large-scale problems in fisheries management and ecology, or prevent the loss of taxa in nature. Nevertheless, captive breeding provides conservation options which are otherwise limited or unavailable regarding the saving of individual ‘heritage’ species, restocking to the wild, fundamental laboratory research and, finally, public education on the grave issue of actual and prospective mass extinctions of cichlids and other rare fishes.

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