TEHRAN – In order to protect the country’s environment well, the number of rangers should increase by 10 times, Hassan Akbari, deputy head of natural environment and biodiversity of the Department of Environment, has said.
In the country, there is currently one environmental protection force for every 30,000 to 40,000 hectares of protected areas, while usually there should be one force for 1,000 to 3,000 hectares, so to preserve our biological assets, we must take steps to recruit more rangers.
Over 100 species of vertebrates in the country are in danger of extinction, and about 160 species are protected.
Some species such as Asiatic cheetah, great bustard, and fallow deer are at risk of extinction and are in a more critical situation, some species such as the Persian zebra have limited habitats, and some such as the bustards are damaged by trafficking, on the other hand, the habitats of some animals that have a large territory such as leopard are occupied, each of them faces specific problems and each of them needs its own methods, and packages for protection.
If the military, judiciary, veterinary, and people come to work, the endangered species can survive extinction, he further highlighted.
He went on to note that illegal hunting takes place in the protected areas, especially the prohibited hunting areas, to a small extent and to a significant extent in the free areas, where there are not enough forces to protect them.
We must move towards participatory conservation, livelihood change or models in the world that provide a part of nature to the private sector for conservation, he suggested.
500 environmental defenders recruited in 2 years
In September 2021, Jamshid Mohabbat-Khani, commander of the protection unit of the DOE, said that the Department of Environment (DOE) has recruited 500 rangers over the past two years to enhance environmental protection, Mehr reported.
It is planned to hire 2,500 rangers for the environment departments in 10 years, he added.
In the next [Iranian calendar] year (March 2022-March 2023), it is scheduled to attract another 250 rangers, he stated, noting that over the past two years, 500 forces have been added to the environmental protection forces.
“Currently, 3,600 rangers are in charge of defending the protected areas, and the number should reach at least 8,000. There are over 600 [environment protection] stations in the country, 100 of which are inactive due to the lack of manpower.”
Challenges facing rangers
A long-awaited bill to protect the rights of rangers including rules on carrying and use of firearms was approved by Majlis [Iranian parliament] in June 2020.
The bill was drafted in July 2016 by the Department of Environment following the death of two rangers, Mohammad Dehqani and Parviz Hormozi who were killed in June 2016 during an armed conflict with poachers in Hormozgan province. It has been approved by the judiciary committee of Majlis in September 2019.
As per the proposed bill, the rangers would not face charges in case of involuntary manslaughter while on duty and would be compensated for the losses they suffer while trying to protect the environment and biodiversity, the government is required to allocate a budget to help those rangers who might be obliged to pay out blood money or other sorts of money-penalty compensation for murder or any injuries trespassers may suffer in armed conflicts with them, and the rangers will be provided with regular insurance coverage and are entitled to compensation for the losses they suffer while doing their job.
Before, the rangers hold weapons only to survive, but now the environmental defenders are allowed to use weapons. However, the use of weapons is the last resort, and only when the lives of defenders are in danger and it must be proven that there has been no other way to save the life of the ranger.
If two rangers encounter offenders and one does not have a weapon and his life is in danger, the other ranger who has a weapon can defend his colleague.
Some 123 rangers have been killed while protecting the environment since 1979 in Iran.
The other challenges the rangers are dealing with are the low wages.
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