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We present here a detailed account of the diversity, distribution, threats, and conservation of freshwater fishes in the upper-catchment of the Kabini River in the Wayanad part of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot. A total of 136 fish species belonging to 13 orders, 29 families, and 69 genera were recorded. Order Cypriniformes dominated with five families, 36 genera, and 84 species, and Cyprinidae was the dominant family represented by 51 species within 21 genera. The true diversity of ichthyofauna in this catchment, is still unclear and requires further exploration and taxonomic studies. At least 44 species recorded during the study are endemic to the Western Ghats, of which 16 are endemic to the Cauvery River System and two species endemic to the Kabini Catchment. A total of 20 non-native fish species were recorded from the study area, of which six species were inter-basin (within India) transplants and 14 species were exotic. Among the native species with confirmed identity, four are Critically Endangered (CR) and nine Endangered (EN) as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. As a part of the study, we also extend the distribution ranges of Opsarius malabaricus, Laubuka trevori, Opsarius bendelisis, Puntius cauveriensis, Oreichthys coorgensis, Mesonoemacheilus pambarensis, Hypselobarbus curmuca, and Pseudosphromenus cupanus to the Kabini Catchment. The presence of four species, which were earlier considered to be endemic to the west flowing rivers of the Western Ghats, viz, Laubuka fasciata, Hypselobarbus kurali, Sahyadria denisonii, and Puntius mahecola, in an east flowing stream is reported and discussed. Deforestation and removal of riparian vegetation, pollution, stream channel modification, sand mining, destructive fishing practices, dams and other impoundments, monsoon fishing, and non-native species are the major threats to freshwater fishes in the region. Strategies for the conservation of aquatic ecosystems in the Kabini Catchment are discussed.
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