Species Series: Fascinating fish


This week, as part of our Species Series, we bring you the fascinating fish of Sabangau and the work we are doing to improve our understanding of these understudied species.
You might ask: “Why put a fish in the OuTrop logo? What do fish have to do with the forest?” Well, peat-swamp forest represents a ‘dual ecosystem’ and during the wet season the forest is flooded. As well as being a terrestrial environment it also contains a thriving aquatic ecosystem. This environment provides a unique habitat for a variety of fauna and flora, including fascinating fish.

The forest is home to many fish species that move from the river into the forest during the annual wet season. Some fish have amazing adaptations that allow them to move from one pool of water to another across the peat. For example, the walking catfish do exactly as their name suggests!

Walking catfish of the Clarias genus. Photo by Sara Thornton/OuTrop

Fish are very important to local communities. For villages close to the Sabangau Forest, fish provide one of their primary sources of income. They also represent a staple food base, providing an important source of protein in the diet.

Although they are extremely important locally, they are understudied and we are only now beginning to scratch the surface. One of OuTrop’s PhD students, Sara Thornton, is contributing to our understanding of the different species of fish found in the forest and rivers, and what they represent to local people. Sara has shared news from her PhD research in previous blogs.

Sara collecting data with her field assistant, Dudin, in the Sabangau Forest. Photo by Sara Thornton/OuTrop.

As the human population increases in the areas surrounding Sabangau, the pressures on forest resources will increase and fishing may become more intensive.

Working with our local partners CIMTROP, we are embarking on an exciting new sustainable livelihood project. In 2014, we constructed four new ponds, on the edge of the Sabangau Forest, for breeding and harvesting of native fish. This initiative will reduce the need for harmful electric fishing, which is known to occur in the area, and will compensate for declines in natural fish stocks caused by water draining from the peat-swamp (a result of the man-made canals in the forest). It is hoped this project will be beneficial to local people and provide incentives for conservation in Sabangau.

Join us next week for the charismatic orangutan!