Mahseer Trust staff have just returned from a number meetings and field visits throughout India during early May, beginning with a very productive visit to Uttarakhand, where Adrian Pinder and Andy Harrison met up with Dr Antony Johnson of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to discuss conservation options for the Himalayan golden mahseer in the Kosi River.
Mahseer Trust have been forging important links with WII through Dr Johnson, most prominently through the recent collaborative conservation initiative Project Mahseer, which includes both Mahseer Trust and WII as key partners.
The trip started with MT Director of Research, Adrian Pinder, giving a presentation to WII researchers at their Dehradun campus, during which he discussed mahseer conservation throughout India, and highlighted the plight of the Critically Endangered hump-backed mahseer as a case study for on-going conservation efforts.
The following day, the team made the trip east to Ramnagar, where they were based for two days during which time they undertook field visits to several locations on the main River Kosi and its tributaries to discuss options for conservation and protection of the golden mahseer.
Simple sampling techniques using dip nets can highlight important nursery areas for mahseer fry and juveniles. It is important to protect critical habitat for all life stages and not just focus on the adults.
After finding juveniles inhabiting these shallow, low flow habitats, Adrian and Dr Johnson took to the water with snorkeling gear to search for adults in ideal mahseer habitat. Unfortunately, despite habitat being suitable to hold many mahseer, the pools were devoid of any sizable fish; largely due to illegal poaching activities in these unprotected areas.
Further downstream, we were taken to a large pool, protected by an adjacent development, and were astounded to see the number of large mahseer (and other fish species) present - testament to the difference some level of protection can make.
Both Adrian and Andy had the opportunity to snorkel in the clear waters of this pool, and what an experience it was to get up close and personal with so many large golden mahseer!
Before leaving the Kosi, we also had the opportunity to visit the buffer zone of Corbett National Park, and were privileged to be able to trek on foot accompanied by the local forest guard to see some ideal spawning and nursery habitat in a smaller tributary stream; unfortunately devoid of mahseer, as it joins the Kosi River downstream of the barrage at Ramnagar.
Before leaving Uttarakhand to travel to Delhi for the next leg of our trip, we were privileged to be able to meet up with Dr Harendra Singh Bargali, Deputy Director of The Corbett Foundation - a fantastic NGO that is fully dedicated to the conservation of wildlife with active involvement of local communities.
Adrian was able to present MT's work on conservation of the Critically Endangered hump-backed mahseer in south India's River Cauvery system as a potential model for conservation of other species throughout the mahseer range countries, and very constructive discussions were initiated on what can be done to spearhead conservation efforts for the Himalayan golden mahseer in the Kosi catchment. We're really looking forward to building on these new links with The Corbett Foundation to further conservation efforts in this area.
Keep posted for an update on the next leg of our recent trip, as we headed to Delhi for a startup meeting for the Shoal conservation initiative Project Mahseer; a project set up to conserve the Critically Endangered hump-backed mahseer.