A brand new Aquarium dedicated to conserving threatened and extinct-in-the-wild freshwater fish opened at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo this week. Ahead of the launch, award-winning wildlife photographer and BBC Countryfile expert Jack Perks captured some stunning shots of the Zoo’s newest residents.
The new Aquarium – the first of its kind in the UK – includes fish such as the dusky narrow hatchetfish, which jump out of the water in the flooded forests of Brazil to pluck low-hanging fruit and seeds from trees and Caribbean mangrove killifish which can survive out of water for as long as 66 days.
Perks worked closely with the Aquarium team leader and expert aquarists to capture the fascinating behaviours and evolutionary adaptations of the remarkable species at Whipsnade, including a Spotted hillstream loach using its suckers to grip onto rocks in the Zoo’s fast-flowing Vietnamese stream, and a male Madagascan Kotsovato fish changing colour to attract females.
Jack Perks said: “Freshwater fish are a real passion of mine – not least because freshwater habitats are the most threatened and biodiverse ecosystem on earth. Photographing the species at Whipsnade was an opportunity to capture fish that I will likely never see in the wild – either because they are in remote locations or because they are sadly extinct-in-the-wild.
“Being able to capture, up-close, the secret life of some of the world’s most fascinating and endangered underwater creatures was an experience I couldn’t turn down – I’ve read about many of these fish, but nothing compares to seeing them first-hand.
“Seeing the critically endangered Pinstripe damba using their teeth to crunch through shells (as well as my underwater cameras) was wonderful, as was watching a male Forktail blue-eye put on a dazzling display by turning its fins bright yellow to impress the females.
“As early as I can remember I was out with a net and an ice cream tub, looking for creatures in local rivers and streams. I’m sure the amazing animals and exhibits at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s new Aquarium will inspire a new wave of wildlife enthusiasts.”
ZSL Whipsnade’s Aquarium is free with Zoo entry. For more information on visiting go to zsl.org
Main image: Male Forktail blue-eye (from Australian creeks) turns its fins bright yellow to attract females