The hump-backed mahseer is now ‘critically endangered’


  • This tiger does not have stripes. But the hump-backed mahseer—a large freshwater fish also called the tiger of the water and found only in the Cauvery river basin (including Kerala’s Pambar, Kabini and Bhavani rivers)—is now “Critically Endangered”: more threatened than the tiger is, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.


  • The inclusion of the mahseer in the Red List, an inventory of the conservation status of the world’s species, was possible only once the fish got its scientific name last June—Tor remadevii.
  • Conservation managers use information from the Red List to understand threats to specific species and plan effective conservation strategies to improve the conservation status of individual or groups of species.
  • For instance, it is thanks to its new IUCN status that Shoal (an international organisation working to conserve freshwater species) initiated ‘Project Mahseer’ last month along with other stakeholders to enable conservation action for the hump-backed mahseer.
  • The Red List is indeed being used in many developing countries including India as a standard to understand the conservation status of species.

Five other species have also made it to threatened categories:

  • two wild orchids, the Arabian scad (a marine fish) and two wild coffee species found only in a few localities in the Western Ghats.
  • While 31 species that were already in the Red List have been down-listed (since threats are not as significant as earlier thought or due to conservation efforts), the threat status of 12 species has increased.
  • The great hornbill (found in India and southeast Asia) was earlier categorised as “Near Threatened”. It is now “Vulnerable” due to high hunting pressure coupled with habitat loss and deforestation, while the wreathed hornbill has moved from “Least Concern” to “Vulnerable”.


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