The les­son of P. deissneri Parosphromenus deissneri Photo Horst Linke

P.deiss­neri was the first Licorice gourami described sci­en­tif­i­cally, by the Netherland’s ichthy­ol­o­gist Pieter Bleeker in 1859 who found it at Bangka island. In the decades to come, sim­i­lar fishes were found by occa­sion in many parts of the old Sun­da­land, today refer­ring to the states of Malaysia and Indone­sia. But many looked some­what dif­fer­ent. Only more than a hun­dred years later ichthy­ol­o­gists began to real­ize that they belonged to dif­fer­ent species. The true deiss­neri remained endemic on Bangka island.

Until the end of the 20th cen­tury the spe­cial­ists knew five or six loca­tions on that island where the species lived. One was highly threat­ened by the pol­lu­tion from a tim­ber mine, but the oth­ers seemed safe with the acid black water stream­ing from the intact rain forests of the island. Only in recent years every­thing changed rapidly. Just like in many other parts of Indone­sia and Malaysia, the rain­for­est was logged and burned down in order to cre­ate arable land for plant­ing oil palms. With­out any con­cern about the ani­mals and the peo­ple liv­ing there, the joint power of pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics cleared the “use­less” wet for­est to become dry agri­cul­tural plan­ta­tions. Nobody cared for that small fish.

When the Chi­nese biol­o­gist Went­ian Shi and his friends vis­ited Bangka in 2016, they found all places named in the deiss­neri–lit­er­a­ture or told orally by for­mer vis­i­tors totally destroyed. Some of them still with water, but no black water any longer. Most loca­tions com­pletely dry, how­ever, and pre­pared for com­ing plan­ta­tions. They tried to find deiss­neri at some other places but it was to no avail. They spread the news to the Parosphromenus–com­mu­nity: deiss­neri is gone, extinct.

One year later, 2017, Went­ian Shi went again to the island after hav­ing intensely stud­ied maps and Google earth with the ques­tion in mind: Is there any small place of intact black water habi­tat left on Bangka or not that was not vis­ited by nat­u­ral­ists hith­erto? Because of its remote­ness or for other rea­sons? And he found such a place, obvi­ously safe so far by being a small local sanc­tu­ary. Here, in unspoiled black­wa­ter, he dis­cov­ered a small pop­u­la­tion of Parosphromenus deiss­neri anew and brought some pairs of them home. Mean­while (Sep­tem­ber 2017), he and Horst Linke suc­ceeded to pro­duce off­spring. The species has been saved by a hair’s width for the time being. Presently, the Parosphromenus-​Project tries to buy the place with money from donations.

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