KEY SUCCESS FACTORS IN COLLECTING

 

 

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

 

 

1. Preparation with maps and formalities.

 

* Using detailed electronic 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 and of satellite locations of temporary pools will be an asset.

* 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, well in advance, fishing and export permits, if compulsory.

* Finalize practical things (outside plane tickets, car rental and accommodation arrangements, less urgent decisions depending on seasonal timing, notably of yearly rains) as long before as possible by purchasing or borrowing a GPS device, an electronic pH device, an electronic conductivity device, and electronic thermometer, lots of bags (soft and rigid plastic), 2 waterproof pens and a pencil with white hard precut-in-bands paper, and containers within a temperature isolated package, at least 1 liter of 95% ethyl-alcohol, long waders and nylon (for details see further) and enquire about possible use of your smartphone (or tablet or laptop) in 4G or 5G speed in the targeted country to access Internet (Google earth and maps) on site easily.

 

 

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 favored by the targeted groups of Cyprinodontiformes 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., and each day to leave where you sleep (e.g., hotel) the planned itinerary of the day.
Is it necessary to say that the choice of a politically risky country is inadvisable ? Always ensure you have a banker's card (Visa, Mastercard, or, but poorly accepted, Amex) and insurance to cover repatriation (often included in the contract with the card… but read the small lines of the contract).

 

 

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, entire arms and legs as much as possible and do wear them (even if you feel too warm). 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) Cyprinodontiformes 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 and a GPS device to get precise geographical coordinates (they are cheap to buy, today). 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 Cyprinodontiformes group (high, for lampeyes or livebearers, as very active fish, low, for annuals and semi-annuals, as passive fish).

* 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.

* 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) is more recommended : 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…

  • The huge knowledge base contains many reports of individual collecting trips by collectors, best season to collect accoring to country and priority targets to improve systematic knowledge, but it is only accessible to members, after free REGISTRATION
  • You have undertaken one to several collecting trips and wish to contribute to Killi-Data by forwarding a list of localities with their geographical coordinates, then please send a message to editor Jean H. Huber with mailbox at the end of this page.
  • You want to donate specimens to an Institution but do not know which and how, then please send a message to author and specialized researcher in Cyprinodontiformes, Dr Jean H. Huber, with mailbox at the end of this page.