Rare black mudfish return home

Children from Rangiriri School in Waikato were brought on board to help with the release of a colony of one of New Zealand’s rarest freshwater fish that has been released into a new habitat near their school.

The large population of black mudfish were discovered by ecologists during environmental investigations carried out before construction of the Rangiriri section of the Waikato Expressway began.

The mudfish were caught and moved to specialised tanks at the University of Waikato, where they were cared for by an expert team until they were ready for release into their new, purpose-built home.

The fish were blessed by Tainui iwi, before being released into their new habitat by Kessels Ecology staff, who will monitor them for the next three years.

The New Zealand Transport Agency’s Waikato highway manager, Kaye Clark, said the new habitat, built by Fletcher Construction as part of the Rangiriri section of the Waikato Expressway, incorporated the colony’s initial home, with many improvements.

“These black mudfish are a vital part of the wetland food chain and ecosystem and they are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss, which is why it was vital we got their new home just right,” she said.