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
“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
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
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
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.