After field expeditions to Tunisia in 2010 and to Morokko in 2011, Algeria was the last country to be visited to complete the freshwater fishes of the Maghreb. It turned out to be the most difficult.
Lousy weather but nice fishes at Oued Boughzazene in Kabylie
In May 2012, I started the most difficult field trip I ever did. Flying to Tunis to meet with two people from the eco-tourism buero Becasse-Ecologie, all was fine. We immediately started to drive to the Algerian boder and passed without problems at the next early morning. Wonderfull freshwater marshes and nice forest along the Mediterranean coast on the way to Algier were more than promising. Moujib Gabous from Becasse-Ecologie and his two Algerian colleagues guided us safely to our hotel. There we meet with Martin Laporte from Montpellier and Mahmoud Bacha from Bejaia University to complete our team. At the next day, we started up to collect the first Luciobarbus leptopogon close to Algier and the to drive west for new adventures.
Luciobarbus leptopogon from Meliji stream close to Algier
Fast, I understood that I had underestimated the problems to collect fishes in that country. At many places it was impossible to stop as "terrorists could be around". In combination with dead streams due to massive pollution and dried out streams due to overabstraction of water, it was really difficult to find suitable places in some areas.
The Algerian dream team at Biskra.
Furthermore, it started to rain in Kabylie, or car got serious health problems and needed to see a doctor, and no fish doctor could make it. Our Algerian guide escaped to Algier due to family problems and we were waiting in the bar. To sit in a hotel in a rainy Algerian town was not what we were there for. Finally we found the Salaria blennies Martin especially came for and also got nice Tropidophoxinellus callensis, Luciobarbus setivimensis and one of my"most wanted" Alosa algeriensis. Saadly it turned out, that the streams at Collo, the type locality of the enigmatic Salmo macrostigma are not accessible - the stream is full of landmines.
Nice Tropidophoxinellu callensis from Soummam river
But after rain came sunshine when we moved south and we could successfully collect some other Algerian Luciobarbus species. But we failed to find the southern population of Tropidophoxinellus callensis - all was just died out. We also did not find Aphanius apodus, the student who knows the place just did not come.
Finally, we were happy to find Aphanius fasciatus, Coptodon zillii and Hemichromis saharae in Touggourt oasis which were on the very top of my wish list. This oasis is such a magic place but we had only very little time to be there. We had to move back to Tunisia at the same day. In Tunisia, we again tried to find Luciobarbus antinorii, a species we have searched for already in 2010. But again without success. This species seems to be extinct. All together a very difficult field trip. But looking back, we also had some fun and the phantastic Algerian landscapes call for a come back.