I was not going to post today, but I have to. Yesterday, I shared an article on social media that I did not have time to read. I have just finished reading it, and it is pure gold.
The article was written by Erica Gies. It details ongoing Persian leopard conservation in Kurdistan, which is sort of Iraq and sort of not. It is a mountainous region in northern Iraq that is home to the Kurdish people, as well as a wide array of wildlife – including leopards.
Ms. Gies’ article centers around two inspiring Kurdish conservationists: Hana Raza and Korsh Ararat. Both of them are affiliated with a non-profit group called Nature Iraq, and they are both firmly committed to wildlife conservation.
To be sure, Iraq is not the easiest place to be a conservationist. Ms. Gies eloquently describes the challenges that Raza and Ararat face, such as war and a desperate lack of funding. Since Raza is a woman, she has to work extra hard to accomplish her goals. Despite this, the two keep moving forward.
Raza’s ultimate hope is to create an international ‘peace park’ (a protected area that encompasses parts of multiple countries) between Iraq and Iran, because the latter nation is where most Persian leopards live. Unfortunately, the Iranian government has proven extremely hostile to wildlife conservation; jailing several conservationists on suspicion of spying: one of whom died or was killed in prison.
As such, the peace park idea is on hold. But Raza and Ararat are still working to create protected areas for Persian leopards within Iraq, which they may be able to extend into Iran in the future.
Ms. Gies’ article is incredibly detailed, and I cannot hope to summarize it adequately here. Despite this, it is not boring. Ms. Gies does an exceptional job of covering all facets of the issue while still creating an engaging, readable story; the incredible photographs certainly help!
Another reason I reacted so positively to this article was that once upon a time, I wanted to visit the Middle East. I told a friend about this, and instead of calling me crazy like everyone else, she showed me a link to an Iraqi conservation group that a friend of hers had volunteered for. I was most intrigued.
Fast-forward six years, and I have indefinitely postponed any Middle Eastern travel plans. This is partly due to political developments, but mostly because I am not going to have any money for the next three decades.
But today I saw a link to Nature Iraq’s website on Hana Raza’s Twitter page, and the name sounded familiar: it is the same organization that my friend had told me about so long ago. It is quite spooky how life works like that.
More important than my nostalgia is this article by Erica Gies, and the incredible work of Hana Raza and Korsh Ararat. In all honesty, this is one of the best stories I have ever shared on this blog. You simply must visit the link below and read it.