The New Guinea apricot crayfish – Cherax holthuisi

New Guinea apricot crayfish Cherax holthuisi

New Guinea apricot crayfish Cherax holthuisi

An little-known apricot living room ambassador for freshwater ecosystems

Few people are aware of the multi-billion Euro pet market for cultivated or wild collected freshwater biodiversity. Ornamental fisheries are the principal subsistence activity for riverine communities in many parts of the world. Whilst comprehensive global data are missing, around 3 Million US$ are generated for the local economy in the middle Rio Negro basin in Brazil annually by the ornamental fish trade. Ornamental fisheries are rarely assessed for their sustainability but as most ornamental species are small and short lived; the problems seem to be far smaller than in food fisheries.

Interestingly, most ornamental species are almost unstudied for their biology in the wild and there are many undescribed ornamental species well known in the pet trade.   One such species is the New Guinea apricot crayfish.

During his visit of Western Irian Jaya in1952, nine crayfishes were given by local people to the Dutch naturalist M. Boeseman at the shorelines of the Aitinjo Lake. About 50 years later, apricot coloured crayfish from Irian Jaya were introduced to the international pet market. In 2006, two crayfish hobbyists described this crayfish as a new species Cherax holthuisi based on M. Boeseman’s materials which was stored in the National Museum of Natural History, Leiden.

What do we know about this species is reported in the first description but most information about the apricot crayfish is scattered in aquarium journals, as it is an attractive pet, kept and bred by many aquarium hobbyists. However, the biology of the species in the wild, its distribution range and its conservation status are unknown.

We have no idea if this crayfish is taken in remarkable numbers as a food item by local people or if it plays an important role in the ecosystem. Is the fishery for the species sustainable? How many crayfish are taken for food and for the pet trade? Have local communities a benefit or do ornamental fishing teams just come for a short visit? All this is unknown as it is the case for almost all small tropical species.

Only one thing is known, the apricot crayfish let people in countries very far from its natural habitats enjoy a piece of exotic nature in their living room.

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