Scientists have found a new type of piranha and a ray among 13 new species of freshwater fish in an area of Venezuela where pollution from gold mines is emerging as a threat, a conservationist said on Thursday.
OSLO Scientists have found a new type of piranha and a ray among 13 new species of freshwater fish in an area of Venezuela where pollution from gold mines is emerging as a threat, a conservationist said on Thursday.
"There was a very high diversity of life," said Leeanne Alonso, a director of Washington-based Conservation International, of a three-week survey of wildlife at the confluence of the Orinoco and Ventuari rivers.
Among 13 species of fish believed to be new to science were a ray, a miniature catfish and a type of meat-eating piranha. The scientists also found a small type of shrimp, also previously undocumented.
"The region is still very pristine but we want to ensure protection before its too late," Alonso told Reuters. Conservation International is a non-profit group seeking to protect the diversity of life on the planet.
"The main threat is the illegal gold mining," she said.
Gold mining uses polluting mercury to help flush out gold, and some fish studied had higher than normal amounts of mercury in their flesh.
Alonso said many men from local villages had gone to work in mining gold. "There's more potential for them to be doing ecotourism for fishing, or wildlife viewing," she said. Some of the fish could be used for the aquarium trade.
During the trip, scientists from Conservation International, Fundacion La Salle and Fundacion Cisneros documented a total of 357 plant species, 157 bird species and 245 fish species, including the new ones.
The region also includes a well-known river resort -- both former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush have visited the area for fishing.