Expedition to Central Asia 2011

Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran, August 2011

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Heiko Bleher made a expedition across 4 countries driving 6000 km and doing research in 20 rivers, creeks and lakes with an amazing – often devastating – result. A few of the more then 6000 photos taken during the 4-week-research-work in the field collecting nearly 100 different species are shown below, some for the first time. Much more will be published in articles around the world, together with some interesting shrimps he found…

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Heiko, on his Expedition across 4 countries of Central Asia and Iran in August 2011, was for the first time forced to do collect with a mule, as the up the Hakimi Valley there is no other access. Here he found this amazing catfish, possibly a new Myersglanis species, never recorded from Tajikistan before.  

 

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ImageEXPED_AsiaCentr_2011_1 EXPED_AsiaCentr_2011_2In Uzbekistan he researched one very large lake, the Surchan, which unfortunately was completely drying up. Less then 10% of it had water. Birds were eating in the shallow water the remaining fishes, most of the shells were dead – thousands along the shore. Only a few with some shrimps were alive. The most interesting fish was a tiny goby, which looked a little similar to Rhinogobius genanematus from the Ling jiang River in China’s Zheijiang Province, which as tiny (23.2-28.3 mm in TL), but has a different morphology.

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Along the road in this southern Uzbek desert region, the nomads sell their ‘survival’ food. This is a cheese dried in the sun until it gets completely hard (stone hard) and can be carried everywhere, in the pocket for years. It is very salty and one must be careful not to break ones teeth …

EXPED_AsiaCentr_2011_5 EXPED_AsiaCentr_2011_6 EXPED_AsiaCentr_2011_7 This amazing loach, with a beautiful Leopard design Heiko found in Uzbekistan at 1500 m high in a small drying up creek in the region of Deshkabad and the only similar described from that country (from the Ak-Darya River) is Paracobitis longicauda (Kessler 1872). Beautiful aquarium fish.

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ImageIn the southern part of Uzbekistan it is desert, so dry and nowhere water. here the water pipe is the saving water source of local people, who made a hole into the lower part, so they can fill their buckets ...

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Uzbek market women take the pride in showing their gold-covered teeth.
 

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Here in the southern part of Uzbekistan, in the desert, they build their houses exactly as the native Indians in Pueblo, Texas, USA – identical. For millenniums …

 

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The roads in Turkmenistan were the worst one can think of. The president builds one palace after the other and places his monuments everywhere even into the deep desert, but no one cares for the roads. I busted 2 tyres. It is desert as far as one can look. The only thing to find is gas coming out of the ground …
 
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The lake Dengiz-kul, more then twice the sice of Europes largest lake, is salty and except for a single goby (unidentified Rhinogobius species,) which has adapted to 10-12 ppm salinity this lake is dead. No one lives near, no sign of any housing. The only fisher boat on the entire lake was long out of use.

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The temperatures in Central Asia in August topped every day the 50°C in the shade, even as late as here shown …

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In a small clear bay, off the muddy and mighty Amudarya River in Turkmenistan, Heiko found this beautiful shrimp and a very nice Rhinogobius, also a possible new species.  

 

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In northern Iran, it was raining all the time and temperatures down to 13°C. Here in the tormenting Velarm road river in the Falakdeh Forest Heiko found only Rainbow trout, but in the clear small tributary, deep in the beautiful rainforest under giant moos covered rocks he was able to catch this goby, possibly Neogobius fluviatilis (Pallas 1814). Here Heiko with the marine biologist Hamidreza Jamalzadeh.

 

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And in the coast area of the very southern part of the Caspian Sea this beautiful shrimp in almost freshwater.

 

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About 30 km south of the northern city Tabriz, is a international nature reserve and wetland Heiko wanted to explore at over 2000 m above Sea level. The ‘protected’ place was a garbage pin, everyone deposits here his garbage and the lake is completely drying up. There was a guardian, but unable to do much. He said they want to bring water again to the lake, but the garbage piles up everywhere, Heiko was really unpleased to do research here …

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