There's Flying Fish in the Flinders Ranges

Posted 08 June 2021.

The release of a threatened small, elusive, spotted fish in the Flinders Ranges is a critical step towards reducing risk of extinction for the Purple-spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda clivicola).

Holding a tenuous grip on survival at only two springs in the Gammon Ranges, a number of fish were trapped and transported by helicopter to their new homes in permanent springs in the central Flinders Ranges. The translocation has now doubled the known number of population sites of the species.

The gudgeon, known as Wirta Udla Yarri to Adnyamathanha people, are endemic to the Flinders Ranges. Brownish in colour, they live in rocky stream habitat maintained by springs. Fully grown they measure only 15cm long. Before the release the new sites had water sampling and habitat surveys conducted, along with frog-call monitoring and macroinvertebrate surveys to assess the site’s potential.

The Friends of Vulkathanha National Park and Adnyamathana elder Sharpie Coulthard volunteered to help SA Arid Lands Landscape Board staff, National Parks and Wildlife staff and Ecoknowledge collect 420 fish from Nepouie and 180 fish from Weetootla using baited fish traps.

They were transported more than 120kms in aerated fish carriers sitting in a cradle slung from a helicopter to permanent waterholes in Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park and the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area, where they were welcomed enthusiastically by 25 community members.

The whole operation took less than seven hours from capture of the first fish to release of the last.

Survival rates exceeded expectations with just three fish lost in transit. Follow up monitoring in the days after the release have seen fish settle in with some moving to adjacent pools and only a very small proportion not surviving.

Conservation Ecologist Rob Brandle coordinated the translocation and said it couldn’t have been more successful.

“It was always an ambitious plan to move hundreds of fish by helicopter across long distances and we were really pleased with the capture and survival rates of the gudgeon. Our task now is to monitor the survival, growth and dispersal of the new populations which can be a tricky with a small fish that knows how to hide.

“One of the greatest successes of the translocation was bringing together Aboriginal community members and organisations, volunteers, and government agencies who all had a role in making this project possible.”

SA Arid Lands Landscape Board presiding member Ross Sawers said he was pleased the board could continue to be involved in improving outcomes for threatened species.

“The involvement of traditional owners brings historical knowledge that, when added to the scientific testing results, places the translocation in the best position for success.”

The translocation was a collaborative effort involving the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, the Vulkathanha-Gammon Ranges National Park and Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

Co-management Boards, the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area Advisory Committee; the Department for Environment and Water’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Aboriginal Lands Trust of SA, Friends of Vulkathanha-Gammon Ranges National Park and the community represented by the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation.

They were completed as part of the Bounceback and Beyond project, which aims to stabilise or improve targeted species listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Bounceback and Beyond is supported by the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

 


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