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Protecting the Persian leopard amidst conflict in Kurdistan

August 13, 2019

The fate of the Persian leopard is closely intertwined with that of Kurdistan, says Kurdish biologist, Hana Raza. She is fighting to protect the rare animal after four decades of war in the region.

Woman with hat and binoculars
Image: Jürgen Schneider

Iraq: looking for leopards

Project goal: Establishing a protected area for critically endangered Persian leopards in the rocky Qara Dagh mountains in the autonomous region of Kurdistan

Project area: 2300 hectares (5683 acres)

Project partner: Nature Iraq

Forty years of war, flight and violence have left their mark on autonomous Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. Hana Raza, who grew up in the Kurdish mountains, is from a Peshmerga family who fought against Saddam Hussein's regime. Now the biologist is fighting to save wildlife in the mountains, particularly the rare Persian leopard.

Read more: Conservation in times of war

Globally, there are only about 1300 Persian leopards left and, so far, only three have been spotted in the Qara Dagh mountains where Raza works. After years of negotiating, Raza is about to secure a 2300 hectare area of mountain land to protect the leopards, whose fate she sees as closely intertwined with that of her fellow Kurds.

A film by Jürgen Schneider