Zebra loaches, a fish species endemic to the freshwater regions of Western Ghats, are far from safe today. Magnificent stripes gracing their small bodies of around 7cm have become a burden to possess rather than a natural boon. And the reason behind this is us.
In order to embellish our aquariums, these tiny creatures are being fished out of their homes, forcing them to get labelled as an “endangered” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Between April 2012 to March 2017, as many as 265,610 zebra loaches had been exported from five Indian cities (Chennai, Kochi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata) to nations such as Singapore, Netherlands, Germany and Thailand, contributing alarmingly to their declining numbers. While the trade of these endangered fish is not banned in India, its unregulated nature makes them increasingly susceptible to extinction.
According to a recent study, 60% of the exports of zebra loaches takes place during their breeding season. This reduces their numbers even before they increase to some extent, calling for the need for sustainable fishing and trade practices, and better legal protection of threatened species.
Throughout the course of history, mankind has made disappear several kinds of animals from the face of the Earth. And we appear to do the same in the case of zebra loaches. With over 150 fish being exported on a daily basis as ornaments for global fish tanks, the pressure on their small numbers continues to rise. Small steps this species will go a long way towards the conservation of several other animals.