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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Endangered Fishes’ New Home at Rio Salado Audubon Center

On August 31, two endangered species of native fishes became the newest residents to the outdoor ponds at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. Over 200 desert pupfish and approximately 500 Gila topminnow were stocked Tuesday morning at the center’s ponds under the statewide Safe Harbor Agreement for topminnows and pupfish.

“We have been working closely with the Audubon center staff over past nine months to make this fish stocking happen.” says Jeff Sorensen, native fish and invertebrate program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “All of our hard work has paid off, and today we have a new home for these rare fish.”

The Audubon Center is the tenth enrolled participant under this agreement. The Safe Harbor Agreement allows non-federal landowners to actively participate in recovery of these endangered fishes by providing additional sites to establish refugia populations.

Over the next two years, the department is focusing its efforts under the agreement to establish new populations of these fish at large, secure ponds to build up numbers of fish for future stockings. The Audubon center ponds are expected to produce thousands of topminnow and pupfish each year.

“Audubon Arizona is excited to provide a safe harbor for these native Arizona fish” says Cathy Wise Audubon Arizona Education Director

The reestablishment was carried out through a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Game and Fish, Audubon Arizona, and the City of Phoenix. The outdoor ponds at the Audubon Center were constructed using a grant from the Arizona Heritage Fund—lottery dollars helping wildlife.

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.“The fish are happy—Game & Fish brought about 1,000 of them. They’re small but prolific. We can expect to have ten thousand or so in just a few months” Stated Sarah Porter Audubon Arizona Executive Director.

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

Gila topminnow and desert pupfish provide natural vector control, effectively preying on mosquito larvae and helping to control mosquito-borne illnesses. As native fishes, they pose fewer threats to other native species sharing the same habitat than non-native mosquitofish.

“Topminnow and pupfish are the native solution to mosquito control.” says Sorensen. “They make good neighbors.”

If you have not visited the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center yet now is the time. Bring your family to the Audubon Center located at 3131 South Central Avenue, just north of Broadway on Central Avenue.

The free admission Center offers interactive exhibits, an interpretive loop trail, connections to the Rio Salado Habitat’s sixteen miles of hiking and riding trails and a variety of programs, including beginning birding classes and bird walks, school field trip programs and more.

 

For additional information on the center, visitwww.az.audubon.org. To learn more about the Gila topminnow or desert pupfish, visitwww.azgfd.gov.

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