UK aquarium almost made ultra-rare fish species extinct in water pipe accident

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Goodeids are some of the rarest fish in the world (Image: Tropiquaria Zoo / SWNS)
Goodeids are some of the rarest fish in the world (Image: Tropiquaria Zoo / SWNS)

A British aquarium almost risked making one of the world's most endangered fish species extinct following a water pipe accident.

Contractors working near Tropiquaria Zoo in West Somerset cut through a water pipe - and supply to the aquarium was cut as staff were changing the water in some of the fish tanks, leaving them half-empty. Tropiquaria director Chris Moiser said Wessex Water would not provide an emergency bowser because the disconnection did not affect people - only animals.

Mr Moiser said the aquarium has 50 per cent of the world population of some species of fish - which are extinct in the wild. Species that would have been decimated include the Mexican Goodeid and Monterrey Platy. He said the pipe work was cut by a digger in Smithyard Lane, Washford, not far from Tropiquaria zoo, on Tuesday.

UK aquarium almost made ultra-rare fish species extinct in water pipe accident eideziqkeiqhhinvWater supply to the aquarium was cut off (Tropiquaria Zoo / SWNS)

He said: "A digger driver could have been responsible for the extinction of a fish. Without water, in a few hours we could lose fish, certainly overnight. I have 50 per cent of the world population of some species of fish which are extinct in the wild.

"We are one of the smallest zoos and we are working with some of the smallest numbers of the most endangered fish in the world. There are several species that are extinct in the wild, and one of them was down to about seven individuals at one stage."

Furious chimp launches bottle at girl filming him leaving her bleeding at zooFurious chimp launches bottle at girl filming him leaving her bleeding at zoo

They include the Mexican Goodeid and the Monterrey Platy, both of which are similar to the more common guppy fish, and the Allodontichthys polylepis, a similar species from central America. Tropiquaria has the second-largest breeding programme of Mexican Goodeids in the world, holding about 32 species. It is one of only about five organisations globally that have them - the population totalling about 100. It has about 40 adult Monterrey Platy, which is already extinct in the wild.

UK aquarium almost made ultra-rare fish species extinct in water pipe accidentGoodeids were almost wiped out by the accident (Tropiquaria Zoo / SWNS)

Tropiquaria does not receive any Government funding for its conservation projects and relies entirely on admission fees and donations from individuals and small businesses. It is currently trying to raise £5,000 toward the next stage of its conservation program to increase the number of species it can breed.

Mr Moiser said about 100 visitors had to be turned away and those already inside had to be given refunds. He said: "With the restrictions on schoolchildren taking holidays outside term time, the main income for any UK zoo is in late July and all of August, so having to close during that period for any reason may reduce the income disproportionately for the zoo. It happened to us and through no fault of our own."

UK aquarium almost made ultra-rare fish species extinct in water pipe accidentThere are about 100 Goodeids in the world (Tropiquaria Zoo / SWNS)

Mr Moiser put out a call for help on social media and within minutes local people were offering their support. However, the water supply was restored by a Wessex Water team after a few hours and the help was not actually needed. Mr Moiser said: "The fact that we had so much support locally made me proud to live in Somerset. I was even more proud because several staff stayed on to make sure that everything was fine when we were reconnected."

A Wessex Water spokesperson said: "Our water main was damaged by a third party on Tuesday afternoon and we were able to carry out a repair and get customers back into supply in just over four hours. We are aware that a local wildlife park contacted us to request alternative water supply while the main was being repaired and we explained that, as they are a business customer, they needed to contact their business water retailer to arrange this."

John Thorne

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