After the Islamic revolution, there was no private department dedicated to wildlife protection in Iran. In 2009 Iranian department of environment initiated giving permission to the private sector for protecting the wildlife, after realizing that this is the only way to protect the endangered wildlife of Iran. The city of Yazd was the first city to have a privately protected wildlife area. Local people living in the villages close to the mountains are the main hunters of the area. Due to the outrageous number of poachers in these areas, many inhabitant species are going through extinction. Masjed Protected Area is established by a group of brave rangers. These rangers who have dedicated their lives protecting these species are those who once had their guns aimed at these animals as very savage hunters. They were the main threat to nature and its habitants. Hunting for them became an unlimited desire that wouldn’t get fed up except by hunting more and more. This act of violence and destruction became a habit that would run in the families. The new generations would take it after their fathers. While the wildlife of Iran is encountering many distrusted actions, Masjed protected area’s rangers are truly and honestly putting all their efforts to save the wildlife. They believe by protecting the wildlife they can make up for the damage they did to the environment and the wildlife. They spend days and nights away from home and family in the mountains. They all agree on the fact that poaching brought pain and suffering to their lives, so to protect the wildlife they try to heal their pain.
Inside Mohammad Ali’s house where he has the animals taxidermied and decorating the house with them. These taxidermies are for the time Mohammad Ali was hunting almost every day
Morteza guarding the area, trying to spot the wildlife and the possible poachers in the mountains.
Protectors of Masjed area are on a mission to arrest a poacher who is one of the villagers.
Reza is on duty on the heights of Masjed Mt. He is one of the protectors who has poached for more than twenty years along with his brothers. He stopped poaching after Mohammad Ali encouraged him to join them as a ranger.
Mohammad Ali and Morteza patrolled the area from sunrise to sunset. In case they get suspicious of the presence of any poacher in the area they spend their days in the mountains.
Approximately two years old mountain goat climbing up to join the herd
Morteza is smoking cigarettes while in the heights of the Masjed Mountains protected area. Morteza started poaching as a teenager along with his brothers. After almost losing his son in an accident he stopped poaching since then. Poaching was taking him to a big “black hole” as he says.
Rangers of Masjed Mountains.
Alireza after a long climb takes a rest under a tree. The rangers search for the footprint of the poachers as their daily duty.
The rangers patrolling the area at night.
The protectors have to spend long hours in the mountains when they are following a poacher. In this case, Masjed protectors received a message from a villager that a poacher is planning to go poaching. Morteza climbed the mountains very early morning and waited for the poacher to show up.
Alireza is warming up himself by the fire. Masjed mountains are located in the desert city of Yazd. In the wintertime, the temperature can drop below zero which makes the rangers' job more difficult.
Morteza enters the shelter which Mohammad Ali has dedicated to the rangers.
Sunset is the time when the poachers climb down the mountains. The rangers patrol the area for hours for arresting the poachers after climbing down.
The number of wildlife has drastically increased after five years of Masjed mountain rangers’ activities.
The rangers are on a mission, waiting for an update from the ranger who follows a poacher.
Skull of a ram found in the mountains. The ram escaped after being shot by a poacher and was later devoured by a wolf.
The rangers are on duty at night too. Sometimes they receive messages from locals who have heard the gunshots. So they have to be quick to show up in the area.
The rangers of Masjed Mountains arrested three poachers.
The poachers are being taken into custody. They can be sentenced to up to five years of jail.
View of Masjed Mountain protected area. These mountains are twenty minutes away from the main city while it is the home to thousands of rams, wild goats, and wild sheeps.