The Madhya Pradesh forest department is experimenting with artificial breeding of Mahseer fish at their newly developed conservation centre at Barwaha.
Since 2011 when Mahseer — known as the tiger of the river or Tor Tor — was declared as the Madhya Pradesh state fish, the department had been trying to conserve the species.
Mahseer, found extensively in the Narmada river, used to constitute 36% of the catch in 2011 but it has come down to just 3%.
Experts attribute the fall in numbers to increase in dams that have stopped the flow of water and created huge lakes in form of backwater.
Additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Pankaj Shrivastava said Shriparna Roy Saxena of Bhopal’s Barkatullah University, who has been working on Mahseer for years, would oversee the work.
“The project, if succeeds, will give a huge boost to the conservation effort,” Shrivastava said.
Saxena said some of the males were oozing and ripe for mating.
“We are waiting for the right female. We are not using any hormones, so our window of opportunity is limited for at best another month,” said Saxena.
The forest department would never have attempted artificial breeding had it not been for the encouragement they received from Shashank Ogale, who successfully spearheaded Tata Power’s Mahseer project in Lonavla in 1971.
“Ogale sir visited the conservation centre at Barwaha and was highly impressed by the effort and the growth of the Mahseer. He suggested that we should try artificial breeding and he was confident that it would be a success,” said Saxena.
The Mahseer conservation project is taking place at a 400 square meter pond in Barwaha.
The forest department has built artificial waterfalls and attempted to create the atmosphere of a flowing river, where the Mahseer breed.
The Rs 9 lakh project was launched in January.