In light of the news of today's bombings in Beirut we considered holding this news story. However, one of the gratifying things about working in conservation is that it is usually possible to work outside political conflicts. The people and organisations that World Land Trust works with have a mission to save and protect wildlife, and with this in mind we are publishing our story about co-operation on conserving threatened species in Iran.
In early November John visited Touran, a reserve in north eastern Iran, where he met ICS representatives and discussed a possible partnership with WLT.
Covering more than 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares), Touran was designated a biosphere reserve in 1976, and the reserve is managed by Iran’s Department of the Environment.
Touran lies in Iran’s Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), a vast arid area in the middle of the Iranian plateau, where hot temperatures and vaporisation leave a salt crust over the marshy terrain. With its vast open spaces, and few human settlements, central Iran is one of the few places left on earth where wildlife populations are relatively secure.
While in Iran John was particularly interested to hear about the status of the Caucasian Leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica). Iran is the stronghold for Caucasian Leopards and WLT is involved in conservation efforts to save the small population that survives in Armenia. In Touran John saw the remains of a fresh kill which, he was assured by his guides, was a result of a leopard.
John also visited Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, where camera-traps are regularly capturing images of Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus lupus) and Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena).
On both reserves he also saw healthy populations of Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus), Urials (Ovis vignei) and Bezoar Goat (Capra aegagrus), which are all preyed on by big cats. “The status of wildlife in Iran is very encouraging,” said John after the trip, “and good numbers of prey species explain why Asiatic Cheetah and Caucasian Leopard are surviving in Iran.”
Founded in 2001, ICS is the oldest Iranian NGO still active in wildlife conservation. “The Iranian Cheetah Society is a vibrant organisation staffed by enthusiastic, young people carrying out excellent research. We are pleased to be discussing a partnership with a view to longterm cooperation,” said John.
Sharing a northern border with Armenia, Iran has a key role to play in the conservation of the Caucasian Leopard, an endangered leopard sub species, and the subject of a WLT special appeal. Caucasian Leopards range across the South Caucasus and Iran, and protecting this cross-border corridor is vital for the survival of the Caucasian Leopard in the wild.
John was in Iran with Marc Hoogeslag of IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL). Marc arranged the fact finding trip to evaluate the potential for a conservation project in partnership with ICS funded by IUCN NL.