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Endangered Persian Leopard

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Persian_Panter_Leopard

The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica syn. Panthera pardus saxicolor), also called Caucasian leopard, is the largest leopard subspecies, and is native to northern Iran, as well as eastern Turkey, the Caucasus mountains, southern Turkmenistan, and parts of western Afghanistan. It is endangered throughout its range with an estimated 500 to 700 leopards believed to be found in Iran.

In the past 10 months it has been reported that eleven leopards have been killed and another one was paralyzed in Iran. Prior to this recent trend, two of four members of Iranian big cat family became extinct including Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) and Asiatic lion ((Panthera leo persica). Persian Leopard is on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) endangered list.

In Iran, primary threats include: a) habitat disturbances caused by constructing new roads and factories, or presence of military and training of troops in border habitat areas; b) illegal hunting and/or poaching; c) habitat loss due to deforestation, fire, agricultural expansion, overgrazing, and infrastructure development; and  d) depletion of their prey.  Other factors are road accidents, or (the leopards) being killed by peasants and guardian dogs.

The leopards’ chances for survival outside protected areas are very slim. Intensive dry conditions in wide areas of leopard habitats in recent years are affecting leopard main prey species such as wild goat and wild sheep.Recent reports and evaluations of conditions by the environmentalists on the Persian leopard mortality rate in Iran have revealed that 70% of leopard mortalities from 2007-2011 were as a result of illegal hunting or poisoning and 18% were because of road accidents. Even though, the anti-poaching laws and fines in Iran include a fine of $1600 for killing a leopard, it cannot compete with the global market prices (and demand) for leopard skin which is over $10,000 (each). Therefore, more restrictive regulations and monitoring are needed in Iran, in order to stop this growing threat.

 

In addition, Asiatic cheetah is another member of big cat family in Iran which is near extinction and is currently on the endangered list.

Dangerous Air Pollution in Iran

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pollutionIn recent years, air pollution has drastically increased in different Iranian cities. Environmental experts and activists believe that non-standard petrol is one of the most important reasons for increased air pollution and causing major health problems in Iran.

Production and use of non-standard (domestically refined) petrol has been increased in the past 3 years, and according to the published figures, Iran produces around 60 million litres of petrol on a daily basis which roughly corresponds to its national consumption. However, even though the Iranian officials have promised to increase the production of higher grade petrol with Euro 4 and 5 standards (used in European countries) the low-grade domestically-produced petrol is still what is mainly produced (and used). Recently Iran’s environmental organization asked government to stop producing this non-standard petrol in the country and instead start importing petrol from other countries until it meets the required standards.  Some Iranian parliament`s representatives have explicitly suggested that production of this low quality and non-standard petrol is linked to increased risk of cancer in Iran.

In recent years, there have been higher cases of cancer, heart attacks, asthma, neurological disorders, miscarriages and birth defects reported in Iran and exactly a year ago, the government reported that over 4000 death in Tehran, the capital of the country, could perhaps be attributed to poor air quality.

Other major factors causing air pollution include limited access to small environment-friendly cars (due to lower imports), and using non-standard domestic cars. Also, expansion of manufacturing companies which do not pay attention to the environmental issues as well as low restrictions and poor regulatory standards are other causes impacting air quality and increasing air pollution.

Happy Sadeh, Iranian festival

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sadeh-tehran

Sadé festival (in Persian: (جشن سده)is an ancient Iranian tradition celebrated 50 days (Jan 30th) before Nowruz (Iranian New year). Sadeh in Persian means “hundred” and refers to one hundred days and nights past the end of summer (or the beginning of long-winter known to start at the end of summer in ancient Iran). Sadeh is a mid winter festival that was celebrated with grandeur and magnificence. It was a festivity to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness.

 sadeh-yazd sadeh-yazd3 sadeh-yazd.2jpg

Crystal Awards and World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014

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WEFThe 44th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting took place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 22 to 25 January under the theme, The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. This year over 2,500 people from nearly 100 countries attended the meeting. They included 300 public figures, 1,500 business leaders and representatives from civil society, academia, the media and arts.

At the opening session, Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, presented the 2014 Crystal Awards, which honor artists who use their “creativity to push the limits and show us new ways of living our professional and personal lives”.

This year, the Forum recognized three exceptional cultural leaders: the Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Matt Damon, who co-founded the non-profit organization, Water.org, with Mr. Gary White; opera tenor and artist, Juan Diego Flórez, founder of a poor people’s symphony in Peru; and film-maker Shirin Neshat.

Flórez, who founded the Sinfonía por el Perú foundation, which created a network of orchestras and choirs to help vulnerable youth, said that music is a powerful vehicle for change.

Neshat, a film-maker has made a number of short films and documentaries on gender issues.

Watch  the video here

Cairo Islamic Art Museum Extensively Damaged

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Cairo

Cairo’s Museum of Islamic Art which has been home to almost 100,000 artifacts and priceless key global collections was extensively damaged when a car bomb exploded early Friday (January 24th, 2014) morning. The blast which was outside the Police Security Directorate across the street from the main entrance to the Museum was the first of four that rocked Cairo according to several news agencies.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has expressed grave concern over the damage caused to Museum.

“I firmly condemn this attack and the destruction it has caused to the world-renowned Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, which hosts thousands of invaluable artifacts. This raises the danger of irreversible damage to the history and identity of the Egyptian people,” Bokova said.

“This heritage is part of the universal story of humanity, shared by all and we must all do everything to safeguard it,” the UNESCO director-general stressed.

Privatization of Restoration

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Delhi

This month (Jan 2014) Delhi, India aims to earn the prestigious designation of a World Heritage City with procedural step taken by the Ministry of Culture, when he sends a dossier to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by the end of the month. In the submission, the Ministry will have to highlight the heritage behind each site and explain that all the proposed sites are being maintained as per the international standards. Basically, the Ministry has to explain why each site is of unique outstanding value.

However, another development in Delhi is also of major importance which could prove to be a new model for conservation of other world heritage sites. Humayun’s Tomb, one of the sites which will most probably be included in the dossier, is receiving major restoration work as a result of a partnership between two private foundations and the Indian government. This type of partnership has proven effective in India and could very well be an example of how public and private partnerships could work when world heritage sites are in great need of restoration.  In many cases, government neglect or lack of (or limited) public funds create the problem.

In case of India, recent reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the official auditor of India’s public sector, had warned that World Heritage sites in India are seriously neglected by the Archaeological Survey of India, a government agency responsible for the preservation of the monuments. In fact, of the 3,678 historical structures in India, the auditor surveyed a sample of 1,655 monuments over the span of a year as reported by Indian media.

The work on Humayun’s Tomb started in 1997, when the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a private development agency, took on the project, and ten years later, it partnered with Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, a philanthropic organization, and the Archaeological Survey of India to commence the restoration work at the structure. The Aga Khan Trust helped finance the $650,000 tomb’s garden restoration, but it has declined to reveal the total cost of the project.

It has been reported by the experts that the condition of Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi had greatly deteriorated and water seeped through the roof and the tiles on the canopies were covered in dirt. The monument, which houses the tombs of the Mughal emperor Humayun, his wife and other unknown Mughal family members, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Public and Private partnerships have worked in many other sectors and perhaps this model could be a way to fund many much needed restorations across the world.

Community Involvement in Managing Monuments and Sites

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thematic_week_2014The Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (KU Leuven) will hold the “Thematic Week” which will be held at the Arenberg Castle, Heverlee, Belgium,  from 22 to 24 January 2014. The topic of the conference is on community involvement in valuing and managing national heritage monuments and sites. “The value of heritage for society is increasingly underscored” as the conference organizers state.

At the same time, there has been a growing interest for the involvement of local communities in the management plans of heritage sites. The 2014 Thematic Week will offer an overview of the origin of this discourse as well as problems and shortcomings in relation to community involvement will be addressed and evaluated.

Attendance in the conference is free, but due to limited space, interested individuals are asked to email  rlicc@asro.kuleuven.be

Afghanistan’s Stolen Antiquities

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antiquitiesFor centuries, Afghanistan has held the ruins and artifacts of history and its past scattered and buried around the country. However, war and conflicts have resulted in many of its antiquities being stolen, smuggled and sold in the international markets to the highest bidders. 

Experts believe that more than 90% of the countries archeological sites have been looted. 

According to International Council of Museums (ICOM) which has placed Afghanistan’s antiquities on a Red List, the great archeological heritage of Afghanistan is now at serious risk from organized destruction and plundering at the hands of looters. The National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul has been looted and is missing a great part of its collection, much of which has found its way into the international art market and private collections. Ancient sites and monuments, ranging from the Old Stone Age to the 20th century are being attacked and systematically looted.

Objects of all types and materials, from prehistoric times to the Indo-Greek, Buddhist and Islamic periods are being lost. Sculpture, architectural elements, ancient manuscripts, bronzes, wooden objects and ceramics are being illegally exported at an unrelenting rate according to ICOM. The Red List includes many objects from ancient pottery and ceramics, coins, manuscripts to fragments of wall paintings to Buddhist sculptures.

The people of Afghanistan have continued to suffer great loss in human lives, personal properties, and the deliberate destruction of monuments, museums, and artifact collections during a number of wars and conflicts since the early 1980s. And in addition, they are now witnessing the loss of their cultural heritage by looters who are pillaging archeological sites and traffickers who are smuggling artifacts out of the country. As we have reported here at WCHV, selling stolen artifacts will continue as long as these traffickers and smugglers have access to international markets and buyers who do not care about how the artifacts have made it out of the country and are willing to buy these stolen artifacts.
The question as always remains as to how the international community can stop this systematic and deliberate destruction and loss of country’s national heritage. To assist in stopping the looting and destruction of Afghan archeological sites, ICOM has published the Red List of Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk, as a tool for law enforcement authorities, and to raise public awareness.