A fish at the London Zoo seeks a female, which could determine just how long the Mangarahara cichlid species will actually exist on Earth.
Zoo officials say that two of the last known individuals, both male, are in the zoo’s aquarium. A third is in the Berlin Zoo.
Officials say the species’ habitat in Madagascar has dried up due to dam construction.
“It’s a fairly common thing with cichlids,” London Zoo’s aquarium curator Brian Zimmerman told BBC News.
The zoo on Friday asked aquarium owners and fish collectors to come forward it they know of any living females “so that a vital conservation breeding program can be started.”
Officials say a worldwide search of zoo and aquarium organizations has so far proved fruitless.
The Zoo, which describes the fish as “gorgeously ugly”, is hoping to start a conservation program if a fit female can be found for the captive males, and with two of the males now 12 years old, the quest is said to be extremely urgent.
These cichlids were named after the Mangarahara river in Madagascar where they were first found.
“They are unusual fish compared to many in that they practise pair bonding and parental care of the eggs and the fry, so there’s a lot of tussling that goes on between them,” Zimmerman said.
Having carried out a search with other aquariums around the world and failed to find a mate for their bachelor boys, the team at the Zoological Society of London are now hoping that someone may have a female in a private collection.