FISHY BUSINESS: An English mining company is keeping an entire species from extinction in Mexico – by Kata Karáth ( – July 19, 2016)

Conservationists go to great lengths to save a species from extinction, and in the case of a small Mexican fish, to great depths as well.

For the past 12 years, London Zoo has been breeding a rare fish with crucial help from a large commercial manufacturer. British Gypsum supplies the zoo with gypsum, a mineral it mines in Brightling, southeast England. Gypsum is normally used as a fertilizer and in building products, but in this case it’s the only way of keep the mineral balance of the water just right for the peculiar needs of the checkered pupfish.

London Zoo runs conservation programs in more than 50 countries that are crucial to the survival of several thousand species, but the checkered pupfish has been particularly tricky. It only exists in one Mexican state, San Luis Potosí, and mostly in a single lake called Media Luna. The fish’s environment is being threatened by agriculture, tourism, and invasive species. And Mexico has no government-led conservation program to protect it.

Keeping species alive is a complex business. Captive breeding is the backup plan for most conservation programs. Being innovative is crucial: Conservationists have dressed up as pandas or cranes to teach captive bred animals how to survive in the wild; they’ve invented a perfume to encourage the mating of a rare parrot; and one plan involves drones delivering vaccine-coated M&Ms to save an endangered ferret.

“Fish breeding is like a recipe,” says Brian Zimmerman, the aquarium curator at London Zoo.

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