KEY SUCCESS FACTORS IN COLLECTING

 

 

THE 6 KEYS TO THE SUCCESS OF A COLLECTING TRIP IN A TROPICAL REGION.

 

To help to decide WHEN to go, visit  BEST COLLECTING PERIODS
To help to decide WHERE to go, read targets for collecting in Killi-Data 2007.

Note : This file of Key Success Factors is a copy of the printed pages in Killi-Data 2000.
It has been updated and extended in Killi-Data 2007. To obtain the new book : ORDER.

 

 

1. Preparation with Maps.

 

* Using detailed maps, mark known collecting places, ring distribution areas and decide on the roads to be worked from. A previous study of the boundaries of drainage basins may be useful.

* For specific annual fishes collections, get informed before anything of the probable climatic conditions and of the date and the importance of the previous rain season from a native: they determine the level of remaining water and the number of temporary pools; fix then the actual dates of your trip.

* Make thorough preparations for the trip, contacting, if possible, hobbyists or scientists who have already visited the country in question. Obtain fishing and export permits, if compulsory.

 

 

2. To travel solo or in a group?

 

* If it is a first trip, it is imperative to go with someone with experience, who has a knowledge of the biotopes favoured by Killies and of the problems encountered on such a trip.

* If it is not the first trip, it is nevertheless preferable to go in a group, but of not more than three people (help in case of health problems, attacks etc). If this is not possible, it is essential to have a contact in the country to welcome you at the airport, get you through customs and police formalities, etc.
Is it necessary to say that the choice of a politically risky country is inadvisable? Always ensure you have a banker's card (Visa, Amex, etc.) and insurance to cover repatriation.

 

 

3. Health/Clothing.

 

* See a doctor and religiously follow his recommendations for medications and vaccinations, and heed his advice and instructions regarding hygiene and diet. Whether you are 20 or 50 years old, the countries in question will mean serious changes for your body system. Before, during and after the trip, do not be casual about anything. For example, it is better to eat bread and canned food rather than local fruit, however tempting, but already peeled and washed in polluted water… or even barbecued meat by the roadside, meat which appears burnt, but which is stuffed with parasites ! Take with you water-purifying tablets to make the water drinkable.

* Take light clothes (nylon), which cover the body, neck, arms and legs as much as possible. Some nylons are impervious to insect bites (anopheles mosquito) and dry in less than two hours after washing. In water always wear long waders. Avoid going around stripped to the waist, even if it is hot and humid; and never bathe in a river on your own, without the approval of the locals (because of bilharzia).

* Do not be tempted into amorous adventures without elementary precautions : certain African, Asian and also South American capitals and cities have up to 20% incidence of H.I.V. (AIDS virus) in women. Not to mention the care needed in avoiding drug pushers.

 

 

4. Contacts with Scientific Institutions.

 

* You cannot imagine how much your fish collecting experiences will interest ichthyologists, even if they may appear banal to you. Therefore, systematically preserve at least three pairs of each species caught from each collecting point, recording all the details on a label. Do not preserve dead or dying specimens.

* What and how to preserve ? Choose the largest specimens (as they are of no interest for your aquarium), place them live in a solution of 10% formalin for 1-2 days (or till your return home), and then, ideally, in a solution of 75% alcohol. These two products are easily available at a chemist's. If you have not any formalin and you are also interested by possible genetic studies on your fishes, 95% ethyl-alcohol on its own (and no formalin) will be perfectly adequate for all matters.

* What good will this do you ? Scientists will identify your fish and, with your agreement, publish their results. You will have the satisfaction of promoting the progress of knowledge (distribution, behavior, biology, etc). Perhaps you will have the chance of discovering a new species and even better being honored with the new species bearing your name.

 

 

5. In the field.

 

* Have a discoverer's spirit, researching "everything" with curiosity and noting down everything, even insignificant details and anecdotes. Get informed of any new road or forest track that may not be on your map.

* Make a detailed list of collecting places, with, if possible, but this is not essential, physico-chemical water analyses. Avoid using collecting numbers alone (such as GMLK92/15) which do not indicate the locality and soon become altered in fish and egg listings. It is easy to give the nearest village, eventually with a kilometer point, such as PK8, West Makokou. (Is it necessary to say that locations like "10 km after the great Okoumé", "PK 750 west of Rio de Janeiro" or "Tanzania Reserve" are grotesque ?).

* Avoid collecting from biotopes where the water smells bad (manioc, rotting animal matter, strong concentration of SO2); the fish collected will probably not survive subsequent water changes.

* Photograph the biotope (beware of back-lighting and flash).

* Be sensible: it is better to examine calmly and thoroughly the fauna of one biotope, going 300 - 500 meters upstream, rather than stop at 4 to 6 locations in a day, with only superficial coverage.

* Do not forget that often two (and up to five) Cyprinodont species of the same genus may be living sympatrically and that females are difficult to set apart : take time to separate them and build up sure and equal lots.

* Use a compass to determine the direction in which the stream is flowing and find it on the map. Borrow a GPS device to get precise geographical coordinates or buy one (they are cheap, now). Take a rough reading of the pH, the water nitrites, also the conductivity, with the help of a borrowed conductivity meter.

* It is imperative to carry out water changes for all your fish every day, checking beforehand that the physico-chemical readings are compatible. The proportion of new water depends on the chemical compatibility, and also on the Cyprinodont group (high, for Aplocheilichthyines, low, for annuals).

* It is preferable to bring back 20 to 100 specimens of one species from a single biotope than a single pair from 10 biotopes just a few kilometers apart, as some populations are intersterile.

* Show respect to the natives, show them your fish and ask them for their vernacular name and if they know any interesting biotopes in their neighborhood. Close to the village, hidden from the road, there may well be a biotope that you have missed ! Moreover, you will be offered hospitality.

* Fish with a large, sturdy net, triangular in shape (60 cm x 40 cm x 40 cm), with a handle. Gently guide the fish towards the net with your waders.

* I would recommend placing the fish individually in small bottles made of rigid plastic (10 - 20 cl, or more, depending on size and the need for oxygen or minimum space required): this avoids fights, deaths being spread, injuries from impact, and, in the aircraft, the problems of decompression. Write with a waterproof felt-tip pen the co-ordinates of each collecting place on several places on each bottle.

 

 

6. Back Home.

 

* Prepare for the return flight coolly and calmly. Sort out and pack your catches, labelling the bottles carefully and exactly. Safely double each plastic bag, which should be labelled too. Avoid to bring back any plants (the import controls on them are stricter than for fish). Why not leave behind your heavier equipment (waders, etc) with a native friend, for your next trip?

* Be modest. Remember how many populations have been lost in the past after a short maintenance period. Share out the fish you have caught immediately on your return, or soon afterwards. Give them to experienced and recognized killi-hobbyists. Give your fish 100% attention until their breeding and distribution have been assured. Good luck!

 

 


How about your next collecting trip?


Further…

  • You have undertaken one to several collecting trips and wish to CONTRIBUTE by forwarding a list of localities with their geographical coordinates (or simply to comment).
  • You plan to undertake a collecting trip for the first time, or, a new subsequent collecting trip and you have a scientific QUESTION.

 

Thanks, go back to COLLECTING killies.