By Kayla Ngai
IRAN – Should people be arrested for killing animals? Although brown bears are not endangered worldwide, they are scarce in Iran. A recent study “estimated that bear density was between 122 and 199 animals in the region, while the scientists who analyzed the DNA of the bear poop figure the number is closer to 40.” Because of this mismatch between population estimates connected to a perceived abundance of bears by park rangers, when a bear walked into an Iranian village, instead of treating it with caution, people abused it. One unidentified person has been arrested for this crime. But that’s not enough. All parties involved in the brutal attack on the brown bear should be arrested.
On April 24, 2022, a brown bear wandered into a small village in Kenazaq in Ardabil province in Iran and was chased around the compound. Later, multiple villagers restrained the bear by the neck with ties attached to a digging contraption. Then one person proceeded to run over the bear using a tractor and beat it, thus resulting in the bear’s broken leg and pelvis along with a damaged spine. After sustaining multiple injuries, the bear was rushed over to a local wildlife clinic by environmental protection officers. Unfortunately, it passed away.
There are no state-run protection organizations for the brown bears in Iran. Instead, there is a reliance on local rangers to conserve the wildlife. In relying only on experiential knowledge of rangers which does not give accurate estimates of the bear populations, it can be said that the country probably isn’t going to prioritize bear conservation anytime soon because as stated by the author of this piece, “if Iran thinks it has more bears than it actually does, then the country probably isn’t going to prioritize bear conservation anytime soon.” Due to the fact that Iran’s bear population is a national issue, the government should step up and create new protection orders for the treatment of animals, especially those who are endangered. Currently, there are no country efforts or well-known education campaigns to help the bear population. Iran does not have the resources to properly measure the bear population, which would be the first step towards conservation. Also, although rangers should not hold the sole responsibility, they should try to reinforce the significance and severity of the issues to the public.
Still, Ehsan Moqanaki, an author and ecologist with the Iranian Cheetah Society, stated the “majority of locals I interrogated supported culling of the local bear population.” As the population of brown bears is already limited, culling, or selective killing, is not an option. Bears are known for stealing food, messing with livestock, interfering with construction projects, and more. Due to the nuisance bears cause, many civilians are insensitive towards the animal, especially farmers who strive to protect their crops and livestock.
When the bear entered the village, however, there were no reports of anything that led up to the villager’s attack. There were no clear incentives or motivations to come after the bear. Although I personally would not know what to do in this situation given my lack of experience with bears, I am certain that I would not run a bear over with a tractor. As the villagers were already chasing the bear, they could have run the animal out of the area. The people acted with unprompted violence.
On the same day, a Persian leopard was shot after attacking a policeman in Ghaemshahr (also in Iran). This death was at least understandable because the leopard attacked someone. However, the bear posed no intent for malice, and yet still received harsher treatment. A gunshot is a mercy compared to the fate of the brown bear.
The photos and videos of the bear’s time in the village are utterly heartbreaking. They depict multiple men standing around while the bear was pinned and tied near the tractor. Other images showed its unmoving body being carried out. It is hard to see the onlookers and perpetrators reacting without any sympathy.
Although people give more attention to human lives, that bear was a living creature. Bears may cause trouble for the villagers, but are still undeserving of the harm that was inflicted on them. Thus, all participants involved in the brown bear’s death should be imprisoned and more laws, followed by accurate sources of information, should be enacted in Iran to protect endangered wildlife.