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Animal Scene - 2021-11-01

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NEW RESIDENTS

THE WILD SIDE

During my last trip, there were Black Chin Tilapia (called Gloria or Arroyo because like the former President, the fish have cute little moles on their faces), Nile Tilapia, African Catfish, Janitorfish, Pangasius or Cream Dory, plus smaller Fish like Guppies and Mollies who eat Mosquito larvae. These Fish have one thing in common – they aren’t native to the Philippines. In fact, the only native Fish the fishers caught that day were several Kanduli, brackish water Catfish usually spotted along Manila Bay. Our native Fish are slowly disappearing. Sadly, this seems to be the norm and not the exception for many of our rivers and lakes. Even protected biodiversity bastions like Taal Lake, with its unique freshwater Sardines called Tawilis and Trevally called Maliputo, have not been spared from the introduction of exotics, imported for two reasons. The first of course, is for food. The pressing need to feed Pinoys has given rise to Tilapia farms all over the archipelago. So successful are Tilapia at colonizing waterways that most Pinoys now think the ubiquitous Fish are native to the country. Newcomers to the country’s aquaculture industry include Pangasius, giant Catfish from Indochina marketed as “Cream Dory” to make the Fish sound a bit more delicious. The aquarium trade is the second entry point for invasive Fish. Best exemplified by the Janitorfish now becoming more common in our rivers, many Fish are sold when they are young, cute and still colorful. As many of them mature, they lose their bright coloration and grow larger than most expect them to be. Unwilling to kill their beloved grown Fish, aquarists sometimes release them in local waterways and hope for the best – not knowing that Fish coming from similar climates as the Philippines can survive and even breed in our waters. So, now our rivers and lakes host giant Knifefish and Snakeheads from Indochina, Janitorfish from the meandering rivers of the Amazon, plus territorial Cichlids from Africa.

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