Ecologists work to ensure future of rare loach

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Ecologists from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) are working to ensure the future of a rare species of loach.

Nemacheilus dori, a small species of hillstream loach, is currently found in only one spring on a tiny 0.7 hectare nature reserve in the north of the country at Ein Malkoach.

A survey of fish numbers in the reserve in 2009 discovered only about 40 fish, but with the habitat being so small, and numbers so low authorities were unsure of what action to take, fearing any disturbance might endanger the remaining fish.

However another survey in 2011 showed that the population had risen to around 200, so it was decided that 20 adults should be collected for study and so attempts at captive breeding could be made.

The INPA then decided to improve and expand the fishes' home through the creation of two new artificial ponds which are filled via pipes and are connected to the original spring pool by hand-dug channels.

The natural spring the fish were living in provided only 5 cubic metres of water each hour, but thanks to the INPA's work, the fishes habitat has tripled in size and has over 12 cubic metres of water flowing through it.

It's now hoped that this expansion and improvement will enable the fish population to increase further, while at the same time giving the INPA time to reconstruct and rehabilitate other suitable habitats in the region for the endangered loach to be moved to, helping guarantee its future.

There is some confusion as to the standing of Nemacheilus dori scientifically, with some authorities considering it to be an isolated population of N.insignis, a loach found in nearby Syria. Regardless of this the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists Nemacheilus dori as 'critically endangered'.

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