Experts from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and University of Canberra have stepped in to save the extremely rare Stocky galaxias, a tiny fish only found in Kosciuszko National Park.
NPWS Southern Ranges Director, Mick Pettitt, said NPWS firefighters escorted researchers to the short section of Tantangara Creek as fires approached to catch and save up to 140 of the fish to ensure a captive insurance population.
“University of Canberra researchers were concerned that ash from the fires would contaminate the creek and endanger the fish, which live in cold, clear and fast flowing water, often covered in snow during winter,” he said.
“The rescued Stocky Galaxias which are a critically endangered species, will be kept at the university, providing a unique opportunity to learn more about the reclusive fish.
“They are about as long as an adult’s index finger and only weigh about 13 grams, but are an important part of Australia’s unique Alpine environment.”
Mr Pettitt said very little is known about the Stocky Galaxias, which appears to have a home range of just 100 metres. It’s named for its distinctly stocky body which is mostly dark olive-brown with dark spots and a lighter cream colour underneath.
There are also risks to the fish from erosion and disturbance by hooved animals of the bed and banks of the creek, suspending fine sediment into the water which smothers the Stocky Galaxias eggs, washes the fish’s eggs off rocks where they are usually protected. Loss of overhanging vegetation on the creek banks also reduces the number of insects the fish can feed on.”
Fencing of the small catchment is planned to occur in 2020 once the threat of fires are diminished and crews are able to move in safely.
This one small creek is a tributary of the Upper Murrumbidgee River and the fish has survived above a waterfall upstream of the Tantangara Reservoir.
The Stocky Galaxias are protected by a waterfall which creates a natural barrier that stops Trout moving into this section of the creek, which are a predator of the Stocky Galaxias.
Department of Primary Industries Primefact: Stocky Galaxias
Images and Primefact: Dropbox – Stocky Galaxias