Field trip to Mindoro Oriental

Philippines – Mindoro Island – 9-12 May, 2011

Image The kind Director Gil A. Adora, CESO IV, of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has invited Heiko Bleher again to continue his work on Philippine endemic aquatic freshwater species. Mr. Stanley Cheng, Philippines largest importer and exporter of ornamental fishes, has largely coordinated everything, also the meetings in Manila after the PET Fish 2011 event to which Heiko Bleher was also invited to judge Discus and Aquascape contests and to give lectures. Below Heiko’s only shows a few of the sights and species he collected, only to give an idea and also because of limited space and time:

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The heads of the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources who have invited Heiko Bleher to continue his work on the endemic aquatic freshwater species of the Philippines (see some of his past work: Wangag River and Pinacouan River). The project is to eventually do the very first book with detailed information and photos of the endemic freshwater fauna of the Philippines. There is a definite need to catalogue and record what is there today, because of the unfortunate and alarming rate of extinction, simply because of the introduction of exotic species almost nation-wide and the destruction of the natural habitats by means of constructions and the continuous flow of pesticides from the rice field and other agricultural areas ancient to the rivers and lakes. From left: Rosa F. Macas, Regional Director of BFAR 4A; Rosario Del Mundo, PFO of Batangas; Esmeralda Paz Manalang, Asst. Regional Director; Escolastic Dinapo, FRMD Chief; Connie de los Santos, Quarantine Chief of Batangas and Josephine de la Vega, FOFAP Chief.

 

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At 5 AM I was informed in my hotel in Manila that the trip was cancelled because a Taifun swept across Btangas and Mindoro that night, but I Heiko wanted to go anyhow and insisted. And together with the kind help of BFAR director in Batangas he got on a ferry at 10:30 direction Mindoro reaching Mindoro Oriental at 13:00.

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The first stop was the largest lake of Mindoro, the Lake Naujan. Fisheries did not have funds to assist, but later it was arranged in somewhat and the heads of the department (above) were very friendly and helpful. The director Leo G. Capon liked very much the new yearly publication of Aquapress Bleher: DISCUSBOOK01.  

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Most of the native people around the lake live from fishing and today use small colourful boats made of fiberglass (top). Unfortunately of the 23 fish species recorded by the Fisheries at least have are exotics, introduced species, like Channa striata, Trichogaster trichogaster, Oreochromis niloticus, Osphronemus gouramy, etc. (centre). After we got fuel from Calapan and the regional Director Emmanuel H. Asis, the boat was ready to surround the lake as Heiko wanted to research every inflow.

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In each inflowing creek and/or river he did look for the species, and specially between the dense aquatic vegetation abundant in the lake, with sometimes finding in one outlet dead Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), probably because of a pesticide-flow from the rice fields into that part of the lake killing most of the fishes. Many of the exotics have had an explosive growth in the lake, like these Trichogaster trichogaster, because they have no natural enemy in Naujan. This is what often happens with exotic introductions … and they take over the space an habitat of the native species.

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Near the Pongau village on the eastern shore of Lake Naujan, is a hot-spring. Boiling hot water comes everywhere out of the ground. And a little further along a rocky shore Heiko found a beautiful, possibly new, Caridina shrimp with tiny yellow spots.

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This Pipefish was unknown to Fisheries to live in the Lake Naujan, Heiko found it in the Borbocolon River flowing into the lake. It is possibly Microphis manadensis, or new.

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Heiko found several gobies in the lake and in the affluent creeks, a total of 6 or 7 different ones (Fisheries recorded only 3), the most common (and only recorded ones) were Glossogobius giuris (top right), then G. celebensis (top left) and Giuris margaritacea (2nd from top), which they all catch and eat at any size. But Heiko was able to find a tiny gobiid, possibly a new species and maybe even as small, or smaller, then the tiniest goby known, also from the Philippines, Pandaka pygmeae. This one (3rd from top Redigobius), possibly a was only 7 mm in standard length (see also above in front of Heiko’s finger). And in the lake, in shall shore he found this , possibly also a Redigobius (above left), which grows to 35 mm approximately in SL.    

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Lake Naujan has a variety of submerse plants, like 2 Potamogeton species, one Lagarosiphon, Ceratophyllum and Myriophyllum species, also several Nympheae and Nymphoides species (top). Not only Oreochromis niloticus was introduced, but also Tilapia mariae (centre). Unfortunately with al these introduction certainly several (if not most) of its endemic species have become history … From Fisheries is a nice view over the Lake Naujan.

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Heiko wanted to do mainly research in the headwaters, difficult to reach areas, which had never been explored before and fortunately the car of Direktor Asis, was a new 4×4 and the brave driver Ricko managed to get high up the Batangan River to 1002 m above Sea level. here in the currant Heiko found a beautiful Stiphodon (above)…

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…but in this river were also introduced Poecilia reticulata (in many parts of the Philippines), and the Puntius locals call Paitan, he found in almost every single body of water of Mindoro.

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 And there were 2 beautiful Caridina species, one with small snow-white and light blue dots, completely transparent and one with beautiful red colours, similar to a known Caridina species….  

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…and another beauty and a native, was this Awaous species, probably A. ocellaris.  

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Another headwater river Heiko wanted to research was near Lisap, at 340 m above Sea level. It was a long drive along endless rice fields and the stony river had strong currant.

But he were able to find an amazing ophichthid-eel possibly Lamnostoma cf. mindora and a fascinating Rhyacichthys possibly R. aspro, the only one known from the Philippines, but Heiko believes this Loach Goby he found is new...

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But he found also several other gobies here, like again (from top): Awaous ocellaris, a beautiful Sicyopterus species; an amazing still not identified gobiid, Bunaka gyrinoides. and another Stiphodon species.

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There was a beautiful so called Wood or Baboo shrimp – possibly Atyopsis moluccensis and millions of Poecilia reticulata, the Central American Guppy, as well as Oreochromis niloticus has adapted itself to this fast flowing mountain stream and both are threatening the native species by taking all their (little) food and eating their eggs…

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Heiko wants to thank BFAR of the Philippines, but also all the Fisheries of Mindoro Oriental, which were extremely helpful to give him the support of guides and helpers to be able to reach these remote places in such a short time. And on another page one can see also a few of his collecting in Mindoro Occidental, has he surrounded the entire island.

This post is also available in: Italian

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