By Sam Khosravifard, Tehran (Source: Mianeh)
exchange of two Persian leopards from Iran with two Siberian tigers from Russia
is part of an ambitious scheme to revive these big cats in their respective
countries but some experts think it is a pointless publicity exercise.
Siberian tigers arrive in Tehran
photo by Majid Asgaripour, Mehr News Agency
Persian leopard, which has become extinct in Russia, survives in numbers in
Iran. The beast known as the Mazandaran tiger or Hyrcanian tiger has not been
sighted in Iran since the late 1950s, when an army captain named Ahmad Honarvar
shot the last one. A grainy black and white photo of him with the corpse has
gone down in infamy in Iran.
Arrangements for the deal were made quickly. On December 28, a Russian
delegation headed by the deputy minister of natural resources and ecology,
Sergei Donskoy, asked for the exchange. Negotiations were soon concluded and on
February 21 a memorandum of understanding was signed. The swap took place on
Siberian tiger in Tehran
days after the two female Persian leopards arrived in Russia, Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin went to Sochi National Park to visit them, an encounter reported
extensively in Iranian media. One media expert said the publicity may have
helped alleviate a feeling among Iranians of a lack of international prestige
because the government's foreign policy means it has few friends abroad.
interest in the Persian leopard is linked to its plan to use the animal as the
national symbol of the 2014 Winter Olympics Games being held in Sochi. Russia
also received two female Persian leopards from Turkmenistan as a gift on
leopards from Iran are to be kept at the Sochi National Park, in the Western
Caucasus. The two Russian tigers will live at a wildlife sanctuary on the
Miankaleh peninsula in Iran, in the south-eastern part of the Caspian Sea.
Russian experts will manage the tiger repopulation project in Miankaleh for five
years and at the same time Iranian experts will supervise the reintroduction of
the Persian leopard in Siberia.
animals have been bred in captivity and the issue of reintroducing such beasts
into the wild has been controversial. Research by Urs Breitenmoser and Christine
Breitenmoser-Würsten, co-chairs of the Cat Specialist Group of the International
Union for Conservation of Nature, showed that only 30 per cent of such releases
have been successful.
Siberian tigers brought from Russia are genetically similar to the extinct
Persian tigers but not identical. A professor of ecology at Shahid Beheshti
University, Bahram Kiabi, said, "Genetic similarity does not mean that the
Siberian tiger is the Mazandaran tiger. These two are only related."
Siberian tiger in Tehran
to environmental expert and writer Kambiz Bahram Soltani introducing exotic
species into a new habitat is wrong and can inflict irreversible and unknown
Abdolhessein Vahabzade, a Ferdowsi University professor of ecology, also
questioned the project, "Today, all such projects are limited to newspaper
headlines. Nothing is actually going to be done. Have we resolved the reason
that caused the extinction of the Mazandaran tiger for us to now want to import
a species related to it and seek repopulate it?"
Farhangdarehshouri, an ecologist and wildlife photographer whose efforts led to
the revival of the hawksbill turtles of Iran's Qeshm island in the Strait of
Hormuz, is also against the reintroduction of the big cats in Iran.
tigers can never be released into nature or so-to-speak transplanted because
they have never lived in nature. Bringing the tigers here was a political move
and I am sorry to see that even the department of the environment (DOE) has been
politicised," Farhangdarehshouri said.
Kahrom, an environmental studies professor at Azad University, wrote in an
article in Hamshahri newspaper, "What are we going to do with these two tigers?
We are going to release them in a protected 50-hectare area. This is not enough
to provide food for one meal for a tiger as every tiger needs 35 kilogrammes of
meat per week."
vice president and the head of the DOE, Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh, defended
his project at a ceremony held to receive the tigers, "This decision like all
other activities undertaken by this organisation has been reinforced by
department official Hooshang Ziaie, who is in charge of tiger repopulation, is
convinced of the success of the project, "The important issue is not just
reviving the tigers but the restoration of the Miankaleh habitat. The arrival of
the tigers will provide a good reason to protect this habitat."
the Siberian tiger could endure the weather of Miankaleh, which is much warmer
than its natural habitat, the head of the Miankaleh wildlife sanctuary, Ali
Abutalebi, said, "It has been decided to build a swimming pool for the tigers to
swim in and lower their body temperature.
erecting a sunshade and installing air conditioners we will keep the temperature
cool until they become accustomed to the weather here."
mammal reintroduction projects have been implemented in Iran before; the Persian
wild ass and the East Azarbaijan red deer. While the population of these animals
has increased in captivity, they have not been released into the wild and in
reality they have become zoo animals.
remains to be seen whether the reintroduction of the Siberian tiger will be
successful, but the DOE is already moving ahead with grander plans. It wants to
revive the Persian lion, the old symbol of the country and the emblem on its
former flag, which is now extinct.
About Mianeh: Mianeh is a new independent web-based initiative run as a
project by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (iwpr.net)
the award-winning non-profit media development organisation that works across
the globe to platform local voices and promote international learning and
engagement. Mianeh aims to be an open space for ideas, news and debate where
writers in Iran can reach out to each other as well as to those outside the
country who are interested in learning more about the vibrant and dynamic
society that is Iran today.
... Payvand News - 05/22/10 ... --