Back in 2004 Claudia Dickinson, a North American aquarist and distinguished member of the American Cichlid Association, for which she is the bulletin (Buntbarsche Bulletin) editor, concerned by the loss of habitat and the increasing human pressure on wildlife and the environment, resolved to take action on the preservation of cichlids facing severe threat in their natural habitat.
Claudia decided to make her part in preservation by founding a program, that was baptized as C.A.R.E.S. The name stands for Conservation, Awareness, Recognition and Responsibility, Encouragement and Education, and Support and Sharing. It seems to me that C.A.R.E.S. came first as a representative word to describe the effort and the right terms were coined later on. And the name worked quite well.
The main objective of the C.A.R.E.S. program is stated as to induce the creation of a base stock of high risk species within the collective tanks of hobbyists worldwide, while forming an information network between aquarists, scientists, and conservationists. The species listed in the C.A.R.E.S. Conservation Priority List (as the list of included species is known) are chosen by their suitably to be maintained successfully in regular home aquaria for prolonged terms, which should extend to several generations and contain a sufficient number of individuals as to guarantee the well-being of their genetic pool. Many theories have been published in this respect, and C.A.R.E.S. seems to take a common sense approach.
Also taken into account for selecting species for the C.A.R.E.S. Conservation Priority List is their availability, and this aspect covers several situations. Obviously while it may be desirable to maintain captive populations of several Furu species from Lake Victoria like the attractive Prognathochromis arcanus, this can’t be done as it is extinct for all we know. There may also be some species that because of legal limitations (domestic of foreign) cannot be made available, and those species are not included in the C.A.R.E.S. Program.
The status of risk faced by the species listed by C.A.R.E.S. in the Conservation Priority List is obtained from the Red List of Threatened Species, published by the International Union for the Conversation of Nature (IUCN). Species not evaluated yet by that organization (like many potentially undescribed species) are evaluated with similar criteria by the C.A.R.E.S. group of contributing experts, and then assigned a provisional classification of risk. Although not perfect, the IUCN provides a very well structured methodology for assessing the natural status of a species, and it is generally accepted worldwide.
C.A.R.E.S. covers not just cichlids but as well other fish families commonly kept in captivity, and regional and group coordinators have been appointed for consulting and coordinating in the program efforts. Since the beginning, Paul V. Loiselle has been involved as C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program Technical Editor of Freshwater Fishes, as well as general consultant.
One of the so far not developed potentials of the program is to establish communication between the persons and institutions keeping a given species listed in the program. Once this large project is complete I believe it will make the effort even stronger and the information and stock flow freely, preventing inbreeding and making people feel even more as if they are part of an effort, giving them an encouraging belonging feeling. Interested people will also know who to contact for obtaining certified stock of a certain species.
Efforts in conservation are sometimes felt as un-paying when there is not encouragement from fellow conservationists, or the knowledge is present that something worth it is being done that helps compensate for the otherwise often discouraging long-term dedication of resources.
The Cichlid Room Companion has stepped in to contribute to C.A.R.E.S. We have developed an interface for the C.A.R.E.S. Program in our Cichlid Catalog. Species listed in C.A.R.E.S. are indicated by a logo in the species profile conservation section. The logo is linked to a C.A.R.E.S. specific section in the catalog for which a specific C.A.R.E.S. page is available for every species listed (e.g., Herichthys bartoni). In this page, comments are made available from the program coordinator for the species in the program (called authority) about the status of the species in the wild and in the program.
We are not short of ideas to help develop C.A.R.E.S. but the main force and validation of the program comes from you, the anonymous aquarist who CARES for the cichlids facing a threat, cichlids that are part of our natural heritage. We look forward to having you as a part of C.A.R.E.S. and will be happy to help you and your club get started. Please visit C.A.R.E.S. preservation program official homepage for details.
See you next month!