Mohammad Farhadinia followed his passion for wildlife to become a cheetah and leopard conservationist in Iran.. After a bold career shift, he gave up being a doctor to dedicate himself fully to saving the endangered cats of Iran. In 2001, he co-founded the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of cheetahs and other wild carnivores. He focused on the Northeastern part of Iran, where the highest density and diversity of these felids occur. However, it is also where mortality is highest due to conflicts with humans. Together with national and international NGOs, Mohammad fights to protect the last remaining Iranian Cheetahs and Persian Leopards in Iran.
After winning the Future For Nature Award, Mohammad finished his PhD at the University of Oxford and established the Future4Leopards Foundation in 2013. Mohammad’s new project aims to improve the conservation status of the Persian leopard with cutting-edge science, by controlling contagious diseases, and developing the capacity of conservation practitioners. Currently, Future4Leopards Foundation is working to enhance anti-poaching and community engagement efforts, and is becoming a pragmatic model for carnivore conservation in Iran.
Since the age of 16, Mohammad Farhadinia has been involved in wild cat conservation. He started as a volunteer, compiling a dataset of observations on the Asiatic cheetah at Tehran Zoo in 1997. But it would take him a while before deciding to focus on wildlife conservation as a career. After three successful years in medical school, Mohammad decided he could be more useful for the cheetahs than for humans. In 2001, he co-founded the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), an NGO dedicated to the conservation of cheetahs and other wild carnivores. And in 2002 he started his journey to study Environmental Sciences. Since then, Mohammad has been very successful in the conservation field. In 2008, he was assigned as the deputy manager of the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), a comprehensive conservation programme established by the government of Iran and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). All while completing his Master’s thesis on the endangered Persian leopard. In 2013, Mohammad completed his PhD and founded Future4Leopards.
Vision and Approach
Mohammad Farhadinia is confident of the flagship potential of Iranian cats. He believes these impressive creatures can motivate the Iranian community to fight against the current wildlife extirpation. However, current populations of Iranian Cheetahs and Persian Leopards are struggling with human persecution and the decline of their prey and habitat. The Iranian or Asiatic Cheetah, is classified as “critically endangered” by IUCN and currently survives only in Iran. And the Persian Leopard has received a “vulnerable” status from IUCN, given that it lost over 80% of its historical range. The ICS was a pioneer for the conservation of wild felids in Iran. It is Mohammad’s desire to conserve both species of cats under an ecosystem-based approach by forming a network of reserves that allow the populations of these animals to move freely. To achieve this, he has been conducting research into the ecology and population dynamics of predators, among other issues. He also aims to work to improve law enforcement efforts, as well as involving communities in conservation efforts. Since the cats are often victims of hunting and retaliatory killings, he believes empowering and educating these communities is of top priority.
“I believe that there are various requirements to ensure someone’s long-term effective involvement in conservation (expertise, communication, funding, etc.), but winning a prestigious award from well-known organization is a guarantee. The opportunities this opens up have inspired not only me as an individual, but also the whole community to work and compete more effectively. In the end, to me, the winners are not people or organizations, but the cats!”Mohammad Farhadinia
Impact of the Future For Nature Award
- The financial support of the Future For Nature Award ensured long-term conservation involvement (expertise, communication, funding, etc.)
- The Future For Nature Award opened up opportunities for Mohammad, and inspired other young conservationists in the country to pursue a career in nature conservation
- The award encouraged Mohammad to further devote his career to protecting big cats, and create Future4Leopards, a foundation dedicated to the conservation of Persian leopards in Iran.
"Mr. Farhadinia has enormous impact on cheetah conservation in Iran. He represents the future for conservation in such a critical landscape that is the only remaining stronghold for the cheetah. Working against the odds, and being able to rally support and have impact without a fully developed support network on-site is a challenge that many conservationists do not face."Ms. Annette Lanjouw, International Selection Committee