I always try to lurk through these things, but I can't here. I've been
maintaining a little African killie in the AKA context for a few years
now. I think hobbyists, with their learned fishkeeping skills, can be
helpful, but in the end, larger organizations have to do the job.
Frankly, individuals lose interest. In spite of the best of intentions,
things happen. Species disappear from 'private' maintenance for the
oddest of reasons.
As well, there's an assumption that a habitat, if ever restored, will be
restored quickly. One human life is a flicker compared to what we're
living in. You can start maintaining a fish at 12, keep it til 80, and
still be no closer to a long-term solution. It's the immensity of nature
that makes fish so much fun to learn about to me. What an incredible
thing any animal is, in its observable context.
Many people who maintain rare killies are now using phrases like
"endangered in the hobby". It sounds pessimistic, but it's an outgrowth
of experience. Unconnected to the larger organizations that have
motivated people working full-time to learn about and deal with
conservation issues, we have a tendency to fall back to being aquarists
being aquarists. When you hit the seventh, tenth or whatever generation
of a fish living in your basement, you realize your task is a big one.
You get modest. It takes time, resources and connections. You may have
the first two - it's the third that is always lacking.
To me, habitat is everything. The salmon situation shows that. If we
ever do end up making arks to cover for our destruction, then they'll
have to be very complex - foundations, scientists, and skilled aquarists
maintaining a big complicated, nightmare science-fiction artificial
habitat... with a lot of basements! Maintaining a fish for a few
generations then popping it back into its water hole can work for a
limited few species, but it's no model.
I'm not trying to be defeatist. I hold to the AKA style interest in
local populations, avoidance of inbreeding etc, and I'm still
maintaining my fish. I'm afraid though, that it can't be held up as a
conservation model. It can be held up as a model of an interesting
approach for aquarists who want to learn about diversity. For now, I
think that's our limitation.
We have to get involved on the habitat front. I think I'll flip the
soapbox over now and culture whiteworms in it...
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