Ugly Fish Seeks Nubile Mate

There are only three Mangarahara cichlids currently known to exist – and they're all males.

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Zoological Society of London / ASSOCIATED PRESS

A male Mangarahara cichlid. Aquarists at the Zoological Society of London, London Zoo, are launching an urgent worldwide appeal to find a female mate for the last remaining males of a critically endangered fish species.

The London Zoo is seeking a mate for an endangered tropical fish species – and time’s running out.

Zoo officials believe that dams on the fish’s natural habitat, the now dried-up Mangarahara river in Madagascar, have made the Mangarahara cichlid extinct in the wild, reports the Associated Press. That means the only hopes for the critically-endangered species’ survival are the three fish that are known to exist in captivity – two at the London Zoo aquarium and one in Berlin. But there’s a problem: they’re all males, and they’re not getting any younger. Attempts to find any more female Mangarahara cichlids in zoos around the world have proved fruitless.

The Berlin Zoo used to have a female in captivity, but attempts to get the two endangered fish to breed ended in disaster when the male killed his would-be mate – a common occurrence among cichlids, London Zoo’s aquarium curator, Brian Zimmerman, told the BBC.

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The Zoological Society of London now wants to hear from any private aquarium owners, fish collectors and hobbyists if they have or know of any females in existence. They’ve even produced a “wanted” poster that they’ve asked people to distribute in the hope of finding someone that has one of the silver and orange fish, which Zimmerman told the BBC are instantly recognizable: “They are gorgeously ugly, they are unusual. They are more a connoisseur’s type of fish. They need quite a bit of space; the males are bigger than your hand, and they need a decent tank.”

(MORE: 5 of the Most Endangered Species on the Planet)

Given the advanced age of the London fish at 12 years old, they’re reaching the end of their normal lifespan the London aquarium’s curator isn’t holding out much hope of finding a mate for them in time. He also lamented the impact of human activities on freshwater fish. “As water becomes diverted for human use it becomes scarcer and fish generally lose out,” he told the BBC. “I think there’s probably a very slim to no chance of this fish surviving.”

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