Indonesia: Critically Endangered Sentani Rainbowfish Rediscovered in Papua

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 16;

Jakarta. After decades of being considered extinct, researchers have recently spotted specimens of the rainbowfish in Papua's Lake Sentani.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the freshwater species, known by its scientific name Chilatherina sentaniensis, as critically endangered in 2012.

According to a previous study by Australian ichtiologist Gerald R. Allen, the species was last seen in 1954, leading to it being declared likely extinct in the wild.

"Based on this phenomenon, the urgency of the systematic study in the diversity, domestication and conservation of the rainbowfish in Lake Sentani will become one of the prioritized rescue programs of Papua's endemic species," said lead researcher Kadarusman, a taxonomist and polytechnic lecturer in Sorong, West Papua.

The multi-party field research was conducted with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, through its educational unit under the human resources development and community empowerment agency, and took place between April and May this year. So far, it has collected 623 specimens from 44 populations around the corner of the lake and river systems in the vicinity.

Results of the research were disseminated on June 2, where the team presented a map of where rainbowfishes occur in Lake Sentani, with the aim to assist future research and development for the fisheries department, cultivation and conservation of the species.

The research team managed to find four different subspecies of rainbowfish inhibiting Lake Sentani, one of which is able to invade the river ecosystem in the Cyclops Mountains.

Kadarusman and his team have proclaimed a rediscovery of the charismatic fish in a remarkable success for Indonesian taxonomists, instead of foreign researchers, which boosted the reputation of the Papuan research team.

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