The sur­vival of the Licorice gourami is not secure

Today the exis­tence of all fish within this genuss is highly endan­gered, due to the rapid destruc­tion of pri­mary rain­for­est in south-​east Asia. The rea­son for this destruc­tion lies in the inten­tion of gov­ern­ments in Malaysia and Indone­sia to turn appar­ently use­less land into eco­nom­i­cally usable areas. This espe­cially con­cerns the estab­lish­ment of exten­sive plan­ta­tions for palm oil pro­duc­tion and the aim to draw profit from the export sales of valu­able trop­i­cal tim­ber. This leads to a demand for, and use of, large areas, caused by the profit inter­ests of national and inter­na­tional com­pa­nies. Besides this, there are national attempts to get hold of fur­ther areas for gen­eral agri­cul­tural use. Despite wide­spread inter­na­tional crit­i­cism today, this hap­pens more and more in land-​intensive trop­i­cal tim­ber plan­ta­tions. Above all the demand for land to extend the still-​growing palm oil plan­ta­tions is the deci­sive fac­tor for the for­est destruc­tion and thus for the threat towards the affected flora and fauna. In at least one case (P. alfredi) min­ing oper­a­tions are also to be named as a threat-​factor.

The long-​term per­spec­tive, espe­cially for agri­cul­tural use. is that trop­i­cal soil is very poor. With­out mas­sive arti­fi­cial fer­til­i­sa­tion, for which no money is avail­able in these regions, such for­mer for­est soils are use­able for agri­cul­ture for only a few years. Nev­er­the­less, west­ern pro­duc­ers of fer­tilis­ers will try to sell their prod­ucts in Malaysia and Indone­sia and it is to crit­i­cise that parts of the finan­cial resources of these coun­tries is spent on that. Apply­ing these tech­niques to the, orig­i­nally olig­othrophic (nutritient-​poor) soils of these regions, starts the fatal process of eutroph­i­ca­tion (i.e. enrich­ment and/​or pol­lu­tion of soils and waters by nutri­ents) , which has already largely pro­gressed in indus­trial coun­tries and till now has not been reversed. Via eutrophic and hyper­trophic soils the excess nutri­ents also enter the ground­wa­ter and cause the start of an eco­log­i­cal disaster.

Regard­ing the threat to them, it is not pos­si­ble to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between Licorice Gourami species: all are highly endan­gered. Even more so, as most of the species and forms exist within lim­ited, pock­ets of habi­tat, usu­ally with­out con­nec­tion to other water sys­tems. Here the var­i­ous local forms and sub­species have devel­oped, many, still unknown to us. Gen­er­ally the adapt­abil­ity of these fish to man-​made waters (drainage chan­nels, road­side ditches, pos­si­bly even ponds) is low, but may exist in some of the species. There­fore, we may find them at least for a short time in such struc­tures. Only the species P. palu­di­cola, liv­ing in the far north of west­ern Malaysia and the south­ern­most region of Thai­land, seems to be more adapt­able in this respect, as its ties to extreme black water habi­tats are less close as they live in the paper bark (Melaleuca) forests which are not quite so acid. Nev­er­the­less these habi­tats are equally threat­ened by development.

Nature pro­tec­tion in Malaysia and Indone­sia has the great­est impor­tance for the preser­va­tion of the rich bio­di­ver­sity of these coun­tries, but unfor­tu­nately within the bounds of prac­ti­cal pol­i­tics it does not have the sig­nif­i­cance it deserves. Inter­na­tional nature pro­tec­tion organ­i­sa­tions try to raise funds in order to buy land and to save it from destruc­tion. In this con­text ani­mals like the Orang-​Utang act as sym­bols for these efforts. The nat­ural habi­tats of licorice gouramis may be co-​incidentally involved, but for the largest part these efforts con­cern drier and more ele­vated land­scapes in the inte­rior of the country.

The indig­i­nous pop­u­la­tion is still attracted by the promises of wealth and employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties given by the large com­pa­nies, which destroy their native coun­try — even though this per­spec­tive is offered only for a few peo­ple. More and more it is realised that the assumed bet­ter future is in fact worse. In some places the courts are already called upon, as local peo­ple start to defend them­selves and their envi­ron­ment. How­ever there still is a long way to go to to estab­lish effec­tive preser­va­tion of nature and land­scape. Tak­ing a real­is­tic view, we have to be afraid of fur­ther losses. Most of the licorice gouramis will be be among the first victims.

(PF) (DA)

The destroyed type locality of P. tweediei nearby Sri Bunian(photo C.Hinz) A creek near Kampung Parit Bahru where P. tweediei can't be found anymore(photo C.Hinz) A destroyed habitat of P. tweediei near Pekan Nanas(photo C.Hinz) Rubbish at a previous habitat of P. tweediei(photo C.Hinz)


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