Native fish returned to Adelaide’s River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari after 100 years

On a sunny morning in November, an excited group gathered by the edge of the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari, in Adelaide’s Western suburbs. NGT’s Dr Sylvia Zukowski explained the significance of this event, with several buckets of critically endangered Southern Purple-spotted Gudgeons at the ready. Five hundred gudeons were released into the River Torrens / Karrrawirra Pari, upstream from the newly re-invigorated Breakout Creek / Purruna Pari section! It was a momentous occasion, as these threatened fish hadn’t been seen in the wild in the Adelaide Plains region, the traditional lands of the Kaurna people, for over 100 years! They were later declared regionally extinct (in the 1990s).

Monitoring has now indicated that the health of the River in this location is good, with lots of vegetation, water-bugs to eat, and low levels of invasive fish. The gudgeons also require hard surfaces in their habitat, like logs and rocks, for the females to lay their eggs on. The male then guards them until they hatch. It’s a great time of year for the fish to be released as the water temperature is warm enough for breeding.

This population started from just 50 original fish, rescued from a drying wetland during the Millennium Drought, then placed into surrogate breeding ponds across SA. One of those was Oaklands Wetland, where 500 fish were introduced just two years ago in late 2021. The others from this release came from Beyond Wetlands at Victor Harbor. Now we’ve got to a point where we have enough fish at these surrogate wetlands to underpin these and other future wild releases. It’s been great to be able to collaborate with schools including Urrbrae High School and Alberton Primary School, with the fish breeding and wild reintroduction program. We’ve also recently released a different genetic pool of Southern Purple-spotted Gudgeons into Winton Wetlands, Bendigo and Mildura in Victoria, bred in our hatchery, and populations are thriving.

It’s fantastic to see these native fish returned to their rightful homes; giving this threatened species a brighter future.

This project is a joint project between NGT, Green Adelaide, City of Marion and Landscape SA.

Tessa Roberts