Bournemouth University: Children’s book helps to communicate species conservation to the next generation

Dr Adrian Pinder, Director of Bournemouth University Global Environmental Solutions (BUG) has published a new illustrated children’s book called ‘The Tiger of the River.’

The book has been illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy and published by Talking Cub, the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger Books. The story describes the life journey of ‘Matisha,’ a female hump-backed masheer fish and her adventures as she migrates upstream through the River Cauvery to lay her eggs.

The River Cauvery is part of a large river system in the southern part of India which drains the Western Ghats mountains; flowing eastwards through Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu before meeting the Bengal Sea. Mahseer can reach up to over 120lbs in size, qualifying them as megafauna and earning them the title ‘the tiger of the river’.

A decade of research work by Adrian Pinder from BUG and international collaborators has revealed that the largest species of mahseer in the world, the hump-backed mahseer (Tor remadevii) is endemic only to the river Cauvery and in 2018 was assessed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation in Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Two people submerged in the River Cauvery holding a mahseer fish
Despite their size and stature, all 16 currently known species of mahseers (Tor spp.) throughout South and Southeast Asia are recognised as threatened on the Red List.

Dr Pinder, whose research has discovered that non-native species, pollution, dam construction, and water, sand and gravel abstraction, have all contributed to a decrease of 90% of the hump-backed mahseer population in the last 15 years said: “The fish only recently secured their place on the conservation agenda following our research outputs. However, despite the publication of numerous scientific and popular articles highlighting the reasons for this species being on the verge of extinction, efforts to raise awareness beyond the adult scientific and conservation communities were previously limited.”

Working alongside Dr Rajeev Raghavan at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies in Kochi, and various other Indian organisations, Dr Pinder has developed a species management plan. This plan is now translating to local action with Karnataka State Fisheries Department who are now trying to breed the species in captivity to boost numbers, as Dr Pinder says: “Many local people are still unaware of the importance of this fish and the threats their rivers face. The book is about raising awareness at an early age so that rivers worldwide are valued for all their wildlife and all the essential ecosystem services they deliver.”

Working in close partnership with the Mahseer Trust and other international NGO’s, BUG is now exploring the potential to bring the story to life as an animated movie.