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Batman River Loach in Turkey Rediscovered After 50 Years

A freshwater fish known as the Batman River Loach has been rediscovered in south-east Turkey, after a mysterious fifty year disappearance. This is the first time the small fish has been since the year 1974. The freshwater fish is extremely small, growing up to just 1.4 inches (36 millimetres) long, and is identifiable by its small yellow and brown stripes. It is also the smallest loach species in the Middle East.

During October and November 2021, Kaya and Oral from the research and expedition team began their search at the Batman River, in Turkey. After careful analysis, the pair decided their efforts were better focused upstream, where there was a higher probability of locating the fish due to the rocky, fast-flowing and shallow waters, generally what this particular species prefers.

A close-up of the Batman River Loach. Image Credit: rewild.

Despite numbers of the Batman River loach rapidly decreasing due to dam construction between 1986 and 1999, the pair still managed to rediscover the species, much to their amazement.  

“We have searched for this fish for many years. It is obviously very rare, as it has not been found in the original locations that it was previously recorded,” said Jörg Freyhof, Europe’s leading ichthyologist and expert on these fishes. “We even doubted that it existed. Cüneyt made massive efforts to finally confirm its existence. Its finding is a sign of hope, that this species has survived despite everything that has been done to kill the river.”

Image of the rewild team hunting for the Batman River Loach. Image credit: rewild.

Using tight-weave nets to stop the small fish from slipping through, the pair searched far and wide in the streams shallow waters. Incredibly, they found 14 fish in the Sarim Stream and another nine, located in the Han stream. This is an encouraging and extremely rare finding, after fifty years of mysterious disappearance. The team hope to gather further analysis over time so they can begin to develop a clearer understanding of the species and if more are likely to be located in other areas. However the pair feel there is a slither of hope for the species, as they have managed to survive despite every effort there has been to ‘kill’ the river, due to dam construction, pollution and other invasive species.  


Image of the team, showing the many Batman River Loach they caught in their nets. Image Credit: Rewild.
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