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Sonia Guinane & Dave Tourle

Sonia Guinane and Dave Tourle belong to the special category of fish keepers who have taken their hobby very seriously and this is reflected in their accomplishments which are too many to list in a short introduction like this. They complement each other in a very special, unique way. She is the writer and he is the photographer and the artist. And both of them are successful in what they do. Which is finding, raising and breeding Madagascan cichlids. Sonia and Dave are well known to all of us who are lucky enough to keep those cichlids, through a series of excellent articles in "Cichlid News" (and not only). Moreover, they never hesitate to give their precious (and accurate) advice to any hobbyist who asks for it. Both of them were close friends of Jean-Claude Nourissat with whom (as well as with Patrick de Rham) they had a special relationship. Right now they are helping Patrick to finish the English edition of the (long awaited) book on Madagascan cichlids which was written with Jean-Claude Nourissat.

The first time I read an article written by Sonia Guinane was "The Madagascan cichlid genus Paretroplus" while I was doing a search for those cichlids. I really enjoyed the article which is still my favorite one but I was struck by the drawings of Dave. Well, three years later, Sonia and Dave agreed to share those photos and drawings with all of us. We, at MCH, are happy and flattered to have them among us. I hope you will enjoy their work.

This is a rather small introduction but I thought of letting someone else to do the "dirty" job for me. Therefore I chose to include part of an interview taken by Matt Clarke which appeared in Practical Fishkeeping (http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk ), in June 2002. In this indirect way, I will let Sonia and Dave speak for themselves. Although this is only part of that interview, still it is evident that for them, fishkeeping is more than just a hobby. It is an addiction.

"Fishkeeping double-act Sonia Guinane and Dave Tourle of East Sussex have built up what must be one of the most impressive collections of Madagascan cichlids in the country and are playing an active role in their conservation.

These aren't the type of fish you see regularly in the shops. Even the most common species, Paratilapia pollen!, is relatively rarely seen, and quite sought after.

Virtually all Madagascan cichlids are endangered species, but occasionally captive-bred specimens do enter the hobby.

Says Sonia: "We go out at weekends and say Oh, let's buy a breeding pair of Paretroplus polyactis' but we've never found them yet. You just never see these fish in the stores.

"We found a Paratilapia 'small spot' in a tank of Kribensis, and we bought that. Then we were offered a group of six Paratilapia po/leni 'large spot' (formerly known as Ρ bleekeri).

"And that was it; we were hooked. We just started reading up and making enquiries, and finally got hold of one
odd Paretroplus kieneri at Holland Cichlids in the Netherlands."

Adds Dave: "If you look hard enough, you'll find the fish eventually, even if you have to drive all the way to the south of France or fly to the States to get them, as we've done..."

Like the cichlids of Lake Victoria, and Lake Barombi Mbo, the resident cichlids of Madagascar are under threat of extinction.

Dave tells us: "The main problem is deforestation and soil erosion. Much of the rain forest there has disappeared, and
there's only about an eighth of it left now.

"The largest numbers of known Paretroplus species are in the north west of the island, which is where most of the
deforestation has occurred.

Says Sonia: "The other problem is the introduction of Tilapia and snakeheads as food fish to feed the local population."

Dave explains; "The thing with Madagascan cichlids is that they grow very, very slowly. So when confronted with competition from introduced species they just can't compete at all."

Dave and Sonia tell us that the only Paretroplus that are relatively safe are those on the east coast, like Paretroplus polyactis. That's because they can survive in brackish water, which the Tilapia and snakeheads can't.

Now that the Mangarahara River has been dammed and has Indian Etroplus, and that Paratilapia and Ptychochromis
were relatives of the African cichlids. But that's not the case

Several of the Madagascan cichlids in the hobby have been discovered by just two people, cichlid experts Jean Claude Nourissat and Patrick de Rham.

Explains Sonia: "Every time they go to Madagascar, they see something different. They visit the local fish markets and see what's on sale. If they see something interesting, they ask the people where they came from and then start looking at that location. That's how they found Paretroplus menarambo.

"The Ptychochromis mandritsara were originally described by Kiener. It was that fish that Jean Claude and Patrick
were trying to find when they came across what's now Paretroplus nourissati (formerly Lamena). They found the nourissali by accident, but they couldn't find the ptycho they were looking for.

"They went back five or six years later to collect more nourissati and came across this very small population of mandritsara,
which they thought had become extinct."

The article goes on.. and states what we all know.. Two dedicated hobbyists who were the first to spawn a number of Madagascan cichlid species in their tanks. What do they keep now ? Here comes the list which is the dream of everybody involved with Madagascan cichlids:

Paretroplus menarambo

Paretroplus maculatus

Paretroplus kieneri

Paretroplus nourissati

Paretroplus tsimoly

Paretroplus damii

Paretroplus dambabe

Ptychochromis oligacanthus

Ptychochromis sp. Tarantsy

Ptychochromis sp. Mangarahara

Ptychochromis grandieri

Ptychochromoides katria

Paratilapia "Large Spot"

Paratilapia "Small Spot"

You can see some photos and the famous drawings of Dave in the following pages :

Paretroplus menarambo

Paretroplus maculatus

Paretroplus kieneri

Paretroplus tsimoly

Ptychochromis sp. Mangarahara

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