In Iran, many wild animals are going hungry and thirsty due to severe droughts. One forest ranger decided to ask for help through his Instagram page, and the response was overwhelming.

Droughts are so severe in Iran that its government has asked for outside help; Australia and Japan have pledged to help save Lake Urmia, which is drying up at an alarming rate.

But droughts affect several different regions, putting many wild animals in danger. So about a year ago, a forest ranger by the name of Amhad Bari put out a call on Instagram, where he posts pictures of his work. He wrote about the starving, dehydrated animals he came across in the province of Khorasan, and invoked the “nadhr”, which is a religious concept in Islam that involves giving to those in need.

This was the first Instagram post in which Ahmad Bari evoked the concept of “nadhr”. In the caption, he explained that the baby bear’s mother had died, and asked for donations to help buy him special milk.

The response was huge. Many Iranians, including many farmers, stepped up to donate. Some people gave money, while farmers donated fodder and water storage containers. Bari, who knows where animals look for food and water, sets the donations out for them to find.

Farmers gathering fodder to give to wild animals. Photo published on Ahmad Bari's Instagram.

His actions inspired other rangers and volunteers across the country to set up similar projects – including our Observer Farhad (pseudonym), an environmental activist in the region of Isfahan.

“Farmers send tons and tons of their fodder, and then forest rangers set them out in the correct spots”

It first began in two regions of Khorasan province, in eastern Iran. Animals there had nothing to eat, and some of them began wandering into farms and eating produce – or livestock, in the case of carnivores. People started worrying that farmers would kill them. But then Ahmad Bari started this program, and it quickly caught on with farmers, including in my region, Isfahan.

A ranger distributing fodder donated by farmers. Photo published on Ahmad Bari's Instagram.

Farmers send tons and tons of their fodder, and then forest rangers, on a volunteer basis, set them out in the correct spots. Some farmers let rangers borrow their trucks, free of charge. Others give away parts of their water supplies. Some young engineers even pitched in to design water fountains that are simple for the animals to use.

“It is saving thousands of animals – deers, rams, antelopes, and even cheetas”

While this initiative doesn’t solve the underlying problem of drought and climate change, it is saving thousands animals – deers, rams, antelopes, and even cheetahs are surviving on these donations. With a simple fountain that costs about 900 euros, animals living across areas as large as 120 hectares can be saved.

Most regular people have no idea what they can do to help wild animals. But with this project, they can directly help forest rangers, who know better than anyone where the animals go in search of food and water.

It has also changed people’s mindset. Now, people understand that if they want to preserve Iran’s wildlife, they can’t just sit back and expect the government to do everything – they must do their part.

Photo published on Ahmad Bari's Instagram.

According to a 2013 study by the World Resources Institute, Iran was 24th in the world in a ranking of the most water-stressed nations.

The head of the national center for droughts and disasters, Shahrockh Fatehi, told Iranian media that 30 percent of the country is experiencing moderate drought, and 11 percent in suffering from severe drought.