One of Iran’s most precious natural symbols is caught in a political tragedy
The best way to document endangered animals like the Asiatic cheetah, which occurs only in Iran, is to use camera traps. It took the combined expertise of Iranian scientists and local wildlife rangers along with the permission of Iran’s Department of Environment and the support of a National Geographic assignment to enable me to make this rare image.
The photo above shows the teamwork that is required in the field. I am thankful to my friends in Iran for their help and devastated that two of the people shown in this photo have been in jail for more than a year now, accused of using camera traps for espionage: One of them may face the death penalty.
But camera traps are not spy tools. Houman Jowkar and Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi worked with the government, not against it, and local rangers worked with them in the field. They were not operating in secret. They are patriots dedicated to saving one of Iran’s most powerful natural symbols from extinction. Yet they are on trial now along with six of their colleagues shown together in the photo below.