Since the age of 16, Mohammad Farhadinia has been involved in wild cat conservation, when he began compiling a dataset of observations on the Asiatic cheetah as a volunteer at Tehran Zoo. After three successful years in medical school, he decided to switch to study wildlife and follow his passion: wild cats. Since then, Mohammad has been very successful in the conservation field. In 2001, he co-founded the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), an NGO dedicated to the conservation of cheetahs and other wild carnivores. 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).
Vision and Approach
The Persian leopard is one of the most iconic big cats in west and central Asia. The cat has lost 84% of his historic range, reducing it to a current population of around 1,000 individuals. Most of its population is restricted to Iran. Human conflict due to the leopards’ hunt on livestock, habitat loss, the decline of wild pray and illegal hunting for their skins are all factors that contribute to their decline. The ICS was a pioneer in the conservation area of wild cats and other wild animals in Iran. Since its founding, it has become an important player in Iran’s wildlife conservation efforts. But the ICS was not enough to improve the conservation status of the Persian leopard. Therefore, Mohammad set up the Future4Leopards Foundation in 2013, along with completion of his PhD work at University of Oxford. This foundation produces cutting-edge science, controls contagious diseases, develops the capacity of conservation practitioners and engages communities in Iran. Currently, the foundation is working closely on enhancing anti-poaching and community engagement and is becoming a pragmatic model for carnivore conservation in Iran.
“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 the long-term effective involvement in conservation (expertise, communication, funding, etc.)
- Winning the Future For Nature Award opened up opportunities that inspired not only Mohammad, but some other young conservationists in the country to pursue a career in nature conservation
- The award encouraged a lifetime dedication for Mohammad to protect big cats, particularly Persian leopard which was used to build on a conservation-oriented foundation for saving 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.” – 2009, Annette Lanjouw, International Selection Committee