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Endangered Fish Find A New Home At The Rio Salado Audubon Center

September 10, 2010

Monte Vista, Colorado - Two endangered species of native fish became the newest residents to the outdoor ponds at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.

Nearly 500 desert pupfish and 550 Gila topminnows were released Aug. 31 into the center’s ponds as part of a program aimed at allowing private landowners to participate in the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is working to establish new populations of these fish at large, secure ponds in an effort to build up the populations for future stockings. The Audubon Center ponds are expected to produce thousands of topminnow and pupfish each year.

“Thanks in part to support from the Heritage Fund, we are working with our partners to re-establish these rare native fish across their historical range in Arizona,” says Jeff Sorensen, native fish and invertebrate program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The fish we released this week should provide us with offspring that can be used to re-establish the species in new locations.”

The release was part of the Safe Harbor program that allows non-federal landowners to actively participate in the recovery of these endangered fish by providing sites to establish populations of the species in areas where it no longer exists. The Audubon Center is the tenth participant enrolled in the program.

“Audubon Arizona is excited to provide a safe harbor for these native Arizona fish,” says Cathy Wise, Audubon Arizona education director.

The release was carried out through a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Game and Fish, Audubon Arizona, Phoenix Zoo, City of Phoenix, and the Desert Botanical Garden.

The outdoor ponds at the Audubon Center were constructed using a grant from the Heritage Fund. The Heritage Fund is a voter-passed initiative that was started in 1990 to further wildlife conservation efforts in the state, including protecting endangered species, through Arizona Lottery ticket sales.

Although once common throughout most of the Gila River basin, the Gila topminnow and desert pupfish now naturally occur in only a fraction of their historic range.

Habitat loss and alteration and the introduction of non-native fishes have contributed to declines in natural populations of these two species. Both topminnow and pupfish are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.


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