On the last day of our autumn field season, we released 3250 of the nationally endangered Murray hardyhead into Rocky Gully, a Lower Murray floodplain wetland where the species once thrived. In South Australia, this small-bodied and salt tolerant species is considered critically endangered surviving as fragmented populations in the Lower Lakes (including Lake Alexandrina and Albert) and the Riverland sections of the Murray River. The regional persistence of the species was tested during the millennium drought as critical habitat, including floodplain wetlands such as Rocky Gully, become disconnected and deteriorated. As the drought ended and water availability improved, the species has shown partial recovery. Presently, the Riverland populations are going well (more details here) and populations in the Lake Alexandrina have increased, aided by the release of fish into former habitats through a collaboration with SARDI (more details here). Yet, after the return of the species initially in Rocky Gully, it has not been recorded over the last three years, prompting the present releases, which will be followed up in spring this year with fish monitoring (and further reintroductions, if necessary). In spring, we also planning on reintroduction into Lake Albert as the species is yet to return to this expansive and important habitat following the drought.
The released fish were sourced from a surrogate dam near Tungkillo, which represents an important safeguard for the species (more details here). Special thanks to Kate Mason (@nrsamdb), the surrogate dam landowners and all involved in the conservation of the species.