Hunters setting fire to their own partridge cages in Kamyaran, in Iranian Kurdistan.
Nineteen hunters in Iranian Kurdistan have sworn off killing animals by breaking their rifles and setting fire to their traps in public. They hope that many more will soon join them in their effort to preserve Iran’s fragile wildlife from the ravages of over-hunting.
The hunters are responding to a plea made a month ago by an environmental group in Iranian Kurdistan, a region home to many endangered species. The nonprofit organization Chya, which went out to meet with hunters one-on-one to make their case, has long warned that many species are on the verge of extinction, and that hunting, both legal and illegal, is a major contributing factor.
Last month, Iran’s environment ministry issued a report warning that 74 of the country’s species have been placed on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. These include the Asiatic cheetah, the Iranian yellow dear, and the onager, to name just a few of the better-known mammals, but it also includes many amphibians, reptiles, birds and fish. Environmentalists worry that these species will go the way of the Asiatic lion. Once featured on the country’s flag, it completely disappeared from Iran several decades ago.
This video, made by the environmental nonrprofit Chya, features the first hunter to make the oath and destroy his rifles. This took place in Marivan, in Iranian Kurdistan.

“Hunting is out of control, and it’s destroying our wildlife”

Hossein Ahmadi, 50, is a construction worker who lives in Kamyaran, in Iranian Kurdistan. He hunted regularly for three decades, but has now sworn off it.
I have always hunted with the proper permits, and used the meat to feed my family. I don’t sell any of this game - you can’t really make a living in Iran from hunting, unless you become a poacher and sell specific species that are illegal to hunt, like tigers, eagles, etc. I mostly hunted partridges, hares, wood pigeons and a few other local birds. But even then, I realize now that what I did was damaging to our local wildlife. There are hardly any partridges left in this area. The nearby mountains used to be full of wild goats, but now there are only a dozen left. There also used to be a beautiful bird called the Sandgrouse, which nested all over the mountains, but nobody has seen them in 15 years.
In order to go hunting, you must first apply for a gun permit, then for a hunting license. There was a time when there were only about a dozen of us hunters in the area. But in the past few years, the authorities have been issuing gun permits and hunting licenses very easily. Today, there are many irresponsible hunters. They kill female gray partridges, even though they give birth to 20 chicks a year, and go hunting during mating season. It should be common sense not to do this!
A hunter lets a captive partridge go free.
There are also people who obtain gun licenses but don’t even bother to get hunting licenses, and kill whatever they come across – including foxes, wolves and tigers, even though all these are on the verge of extinction. There is a region in the Bamo mountains, near the border with Iraq, where there are many wild animal herds left. Few people go there, because there are lots of unexploded mines left over from the war with Iraq. But even there, unscrupulous hunters have started to kill animals.
Hunters gathering up their bird cages before burning them.
 “Gun permits should be revoked”
If you abide by the rules, hunting permits – which cost 500,000 rials [about 14 euros] and are valid for three months – only allow you to kill three partridges or three wood pigeons on Thursdays and Fridays. Beyond that, you have to pay a fine. If you are arrested with a partridge that you shouldn’t have, you will be fined 700,000 rial [about 20 euros] per bird and you will face a one-month jail sentence. If it’s an eagle, it’s much worse – the fine is 18 million rial [about 500 euros] and a three-month jail sentence. However, there are not enough forest rangers to effectively put a stop to illegal hunting.
Environmental activists and local officials were present to watch the burning of the bird cages.

Hunting is out of control, and it’s destroying our wildlife. That’s why I and other hunters decided to set an example by taking an oath to stop killing all animals. We hope that this will make a dent in the problem, but the most effective solution would be for the government to revoke the huge number of gun licenses it has issued in recent years. 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Ershad Alijani (@ErshadAlijani).