Nature Iraq has been working throughout Iraq on biodiversity and environmental restoration. It has conducted seasonal surveys in Iraq since 2005 on areas of key biodiversity in southern, central and northern (Kurdistan) Iraq. These surveys have focused on birds, fish, plants, and other biota as well as water quality.
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.
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.
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....
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.
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Photos of the project
Freshwater Fish Species found during the survey
Important partners in our conservation work include:
Nature Iraq is the first and only affiliate of BirdLife International in Iraq. BirdLife is a partnership of 116 national conservation organizations and the world leader in bird conservation.
Iraq Ministry of Environment
The Iraq Ministry of Environment is a critical and core partner in the conservation work of Iraq and all conservation activities of Nature Iraq are conducted in cooperation with or to provide assistance to the Ministry of Environment.
Nature Iraq also works in cooperation with the Kurdistan Environmental Protection and Improvement Board in Kurdistan, northern Iraq.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, founded in the 17th century as a physic garden, is first and foremost a scientific institution, dedicated to discovering and describing plants and their relationships, evolution, conservation and biology.
This research is underpinned by the Garden's internationally important collections of living and preserved plants, a large specialist library, and by modern well-equipped laboratories.
The Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) is part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). CMEP partners with government, private sector, NGO and academic organisations to produce quality, tailored solutions to complex environmental problems.
CMEP projects tackle major environmental challenges in the Middle East such as climate change, water conservation, sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. Their aim is to engage in projects which leave pragmatic and environmentally sustainable legacies.
We can no longer see the continued loss of biodiversity as an issue separate from the core concerns of society: to tackle poverty, to improve the health, prosperity and security of present and future generations, and to deal with climate change. Each of those objectives is undermined by current trends in the state of our ecosystems, and each will be greatly strengthened if we finally give biodiversity the priority it deserves.
Convention on Biological Diversity's 'Global Biodiversity Outlook 3' report