Poachers in DOE Crosshairs

Poachers in DOE CrosshairsPoachers in DOE Crosshairs

The Department of Environment is taking action against illegal hunters who have been using the social media to gloat over their latest kills and taunt environmental officials over their inability to stop them.

In cooperation with the Iran Cyber Police, the DOE has set out to identify the poachers as well as the administrators of the social media accounts that enable the criminals to post harrowing pictures of their hunts.

“Trading animals and displaying them in any shape or form without a permit from the DOE is illegal, as is promoting those activities,” Mohammad Hossein Bazgir, head of the Tehran Department of Environment, told ILNA. “As such, we’ll track down the perpetrators and the Special Court of Cybercrimes will handle their cases.”

He said the police have already made a number of arrests, adding that there are about 15 open cases.

  Poaching Not on the Rise

The swarm of poachers who have taken to social media to show off their kills has led many to conclude that Iran is experiencing a staggering rise in illegal hunting, but Bazgir dismissed those claims.

“There hasn’t been an increase in poaching; it only seems that way because hunters are using the power of social media for showboating,” he said. “In the past, hunters kept a photo album of their kills; now, they share the pictures online.”

  Psychological Factor

Whereas in the years long passed locals relied on hunting to provide for their families, the advent of automatic weapons has turned it into a sport for those “looking for a way to feel powerful.”

“These people don’t need to hunt, they do it for the thrill and the damage it inflicts on the environment,” Bazgir said.

Mohammad Darvish, director of the Public Participation Office at the DOE, agrees.

“[The illegal hunters] are generally affluent, as evidenced by the expensive guns and equipment they carry around,” he said. Less than 5% of the population, all of whom are locals, actually need to hunt to make a living.

He said despite what the social media has people believe, there has been a decline in illegal hunting during the past decade thanks to the rise in social awareness and animal rights activism.

“The society at large has zero tolerance for hunters. You can see this in the comments people post online on pictures of hunters,” Darvish said.

Despite complying with international laws, Iranian authorities have had little success preventing trophy hunters from killing endangered species. The DOE is the foremost authority on the matter; however, the department’s meager budget and shortage of staff has made enforcing the law more difficult.