Wildlife Crisis Exacerbated by Int’l Poachers

Wildlife Crisis Exacerbated by Int’l Poachers Wildlife Crisis Exacerbated by Int’l Poachers

One would think that the crisis-like situation facing wildlife in the country would barely have room for poachers and traders from overseas and neighboring countries to wreak their own havoc on Iran’s rare species and endangered wildlife.

But tourists on hunting trips and Arab sheikhs on their chase of rare birds is a common threat for species on the brink of extinction. Persian newspaper Iran recently ran the story of a Spanish tourist who gained entry into Bamoo Protected Area in Fars Province by splashing out $170,000 and then proceeded to hunt down a leopard with impunity; he even had the audacity to post ‘selfies’ on social media with a triumphant gesture and the carcass of the leopard by his side. In another incident, four Arab poachers who were arrested in Kerman Province were freed without being indicted.


 Killing Spree

Arab royals have shown in the past their poaching desires know no limits - especially when it comes to the internationally protected houbara bustard. Iran deserts are home to these rare species and hence the frequent presence of Arab sheikhs in these regions. The previous administration caused much furor by handing over the control of a part of a protected area to an Arab sheikh “to help protect the species.”

But even that didn’t curb the insatiable avarice of poachers and smugglers. Only last month, environmental security task forces seized a cargo containing 140 peregrine falcons and 240 houbara bustards in the southern border port of Chabahar. Environmental officials said the birds were to be smuggled into Pakistan from where they were to be shipped to Persian Gulf sheikdoms.

‘’The fact of the matter is that a $660 is not going to stop domestic poachers from hunting down these birds since their price is much higher in the countries where they are smuggled to,’’ says Ahmad Nabavi, an inspection officer at the Department of Environment (DoE). He maintains that fines should go up accordingly.  

 Protected Areas

Another threat for the rare species comes from the “lack of protection to the protected areas itself.” Nabavi says the previous administration sanctioned housing projects known as Maskane-Mehr in the vicinity of the protected habitats. He says “he has put up with irritants ranging from extortion to being offered bribes to soft-peddle the issue.”

Nabavi keeps silent about the extent of protected area ravaged by the Mehr Housing Projects but alludes to one case in which ‘Kolah-Ghazi’ protected area was reduced from 3726 hectares to 3314 hectares after large stretches were devoured by reckless housing projects. The previous administration had also decided to turn 269 hectares of this protected area into a tourist spot, which Nabavi says, “the DoE has made a priority to repeal.” The destruction of coastlines – known as sea grabbing is also the result of decisions made by the former government, and “therefore I challenge the Iranian people to report any environmental misconduct directly to the DoE by calling the hotline 1540.’’