‘Miss Kerala’ gets a protective shield

February 01, 2010 12:00 am | Updated September 20, 2010 11:48 am IST

Dennis Marcus Mathew

ALAPPUZHA: Hope is finally burning bright for ‘Miss Kerala’ (Puntius denisonii), an ornamental fish facing the danger of extinction from commercial exports.

A freshwater fish endemic and once largely exclusive to the Achencoil and the Chaliyar rivers, Miss Kerala, also known as red line torpedo barb, was a major export revenue earner for the State in the ornamental fish export sector, with each of these beauties raking in at least Rs.1,500.

However, with no steps to curb the exports, the species was slowly swimming to extinction.

Now, giving a shot in the arm for those fighting to save Miss Kerala, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put her on its Red List, regarded the most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species since 1963.

The IUCN Red List ( >www.iucn.org ) says Miss Kerala is vulnerable because it has a restricted extent of occurrence (less than 20,000 sq km) and is suffering from a decline in habitat quality and number of mature individuals.

Miss Kerala, according to the list, is found in only four locations: the Cheenkannipuzha (tributary of the Valapattanam river), the Achencoil, the Chaliyar and near Mundakayam. The Red List says the fish is likely to be threatened by habitat degradation.

Limited success

Breeding of the Miss Kerala has seen only limited success. Though a section of the media reported in December 2009 that it was bred in captivity for the first time in Kerala, the actual credit goes to the Chester Zoo and to two amateur Chennai-based fish lovers, Rabi Venkatesh and Murali, a success reported in The Hindu on October 16, 2008.

Though the Fisheries Department has issued an order restricting catching and exporting of Miss Kerala, the fish is yet to be listed under the National Wildlife Protection Act.

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