Asiatic lions were once wild and free animals in Iran. Their ancient range was from the Holy Land all the way across to India. Now, thanks to the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project sponsored by the Indian Government, this noble and threatened animal has been brought back from the brink of extinction and given a chance to live on into the future.
What kind of future they will have depends on us.
On a recent journey to Iran, I've observed the tragic and pathetic conditions that lions are kept in, in the zoos there. Although I only visited one zoo in northern Iran, I am informed that the conditions that animals are kept in in most zoos in Iran are comparable. Their condition is deplorable.
While still in northern Iran, I got in touch with my friend Jacqueline Buckingham whom I knew worked with Anna Breytenbach to deepen her connection with the animal kingdom as an animal communicator. I started to explore the idea of introducing animal communication in Iran in the hope that this art and discipline will influence the way we treat our animal kin. If we can truly hear the animals, I am hoping that we will be kinder, cleaner, and more responsible in our relationship to the animal kingdom. Even more, perhaps we will learn how to develop a deeper understanding of, and better relationship with, the animal kingdom, which will enable us to bring their natural habitats back to life.
So there is a lot at stake here in terms of the future of the captive lions and other wildlife, and improving our relationship with them.
Thankfully Jacqueline connected me and a group of us who are sympathetic to wildlife in Iran to Anna. Initially we wanted to invite Jacqueline and Anna to travel to Iran to facilitate animal communication workshops. We then learned that Anna is having a year of sabbatical leave in 2016. However she offered us a generous proposition. Namely that she would communicate with the animals in the Iranian zoo, whom I had taken photographs of, if we would follow that up with practical action. Duly, we accepted her offer.
When we finally sat together to talk in Findhorn, Scotland, Jacqueline said that a few things about the zoo animals are very obvious. You don't need to be an animal communicator to know that those lions need more space and a cleaner living environment. They most likely need a better diet and less human involvement.
That led us to think about the idea of a Lion Sanctuary. Further research revealed to us that a family near Tehran holds a large estate where captive lions are released into enclosed natural areas, which provide a much better environment than a zoo. Our aim at this time is to establish a positive working relationship with this existing Lion Sanctuary in Iran. We have also asked for help and expertise from the White Lion Trust in South Africa regarding the rehabilitation process of captive lions into freer conditions.
The last lion in Iran was killed in Dasht-e-Arzhan in Fars Province in 1963. No Iranian lion has graced our land since that date. What would it take for a nation to value its wildlife and treasure them as free animals back on the land? Maybe there is something for us to learn from the lions and their courage to walk fearlessly through life.
By Pupak Haghighi
Captive Lions in an Iranian Zoo
Imagine Them Wild Again!