On November 24, 2017: Academic Preparatory Program (APP) Students at AUIS took a trip with representatives from Nature Iraq, Sulaimani University, Waterkeepers Iraq, and Kurdistan Botanical Foundation to Persian Leopard Conservation Peace Park in Qaradagh, to learn about the endangered animal species as part of their Service Learning Program.
On this trip, students learned about the endangered Persian Leopard and the park’s efforts to bring back the endangered animal species. Hana Raza from Nature Iraq gave an informative talk to the students regarding the remaining Persian Leopards in Iraq. She discussed current developments and strategies, including a new rainwater harvesting dam for the leopard and other animals, and the use of GPS technology.
Korsh Ararat, a bird specialist from University of Sulaimani, explained different birds native to the area. Students learnt to use a spotting scope and binoculars to view and identify various species of birds visible at the site. Some of the birds identified were the Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Eagle Owl, Crested Lark, Magpie, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Eurasian Jay, Western Rock Nuthatch, and Northern Raven.
A long-time supporter and collaborator of AUIS service learning projects, Nabil Musa from Waterkeepers Iraq-Kurdistan, also joined the outing and talked to students about the benefits of protecting Iraq’s waterways and of his organization's efforts not only in the Nature Reserve but in Iraqi-Kurdistan as a whole.
Shoxan Babarasul, from Kurdistan Botanical Foundation and the Environment Keepers student group were also in attendance to support and interact throughout the day. The Environment Keepers will be working with the park’s organizers to gain experience in the field in conservation and help with efforts to protect the endangered Persian Leopards.
Hozan Hamza, park ranger from the Qaradagh Forestry Police, discussed the challenges the park’s habitat and species face and about their efforts to help support the park’s efforts and mission. Each speaker elicited spirited questions and discussion amongst the AUIS students.
Students then went on a 45 minute hike to the top of Mount Jazhna to help the organization set a camera trap. Along the way, students learnt to identify various animal species such as the Wild Goat and European Hare just by looking at their scat (animal feces).
The day ended with students practicing responsible ecotourism by “leaving no trace” of garbage from their hike.