Fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan in June 2012

The freshwater fishes of Iraq are very poorly known. Reason enough for a visit. Since long I was so keen to go there, but too many well known problems made Iraq to a difficult destination. In 2012, a dream came true, I could first visit Iraqi Kurdistan which turned out to be a fine place for freshwater biodiversity.

Little Zab river

 The Litttle Zab river at Altun Kopri, hot as in an oven but an excellent place for fishes.

 The Zagroz mountains in Iran and Iraq are one of the biodiversity hotspots for freshwater fishes in the Middle East. Together with Nature Iraq, I spent eight fantastic days in the field to search for freshwater fishes in Sirvan, Little Zab and Great Zab rivers in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fish photographer

How to photograph a fish? Hana A. Raza and Mariwan Qadir from Nature Iraq are giving their best.

The beauty of the wild Kurdistani landscapes, good weather and nice colleagues made this fieldtrip to be a real eye-opener. Nature Iraq stuff showed me the very best places and they were the finest I could imagine. I was not aware, that such fantastic rivers still exist in the Tigris basin, each full of fishes and all fish communities very natural, with little alien species and little pollution. Catching my first Carasobarbus kosswig, large Labeobarbus grypus, Turcinoemacheilus kosswigi and massive spiny eels at every place, new species of loaches each day and, and and....

Mastacembelus mastacembelus Mesopotamian spiny eels are common.

Paracobitis sp.

A nice undescribed Paracobitis from the Great Zab river.

Not only the mountain rivers were perfect, our trip to the lowland section of the Little and Great Zab was also very interesting. Many Barilius mesopotamicus, Chondrostoma regium, Squalius lepidus and, most remarkable, my fist Garra 'elegans'. This enigmatic species was on the top of my wish list. Places in Hemigrammocapoeta before, this small fish has a very disjunct distribution from other Hemigrammocapoeta. Surprizingly, mtDNA data placed it within the Garra rufa species group. Now I'm waiting for the nuclear DNA results!

Garra 'elegans' from the Littel Zab River.