Iranian Eco-Architect Nader Khalili

Iranian eco-architect Nader Khalili died early last month (here is the LA Times obit). He was an advocate of “earth architecture,” inventing techniques for building really cool dome-shaped structures. Khalili founded an institute called Cal-Earth to teach others how to build these houses, which got the stamp of approval from the UN, where he was also a consultant.

I think Khalili’s work is really the pinnacle of an Iranian working to create and promote environmentally-conscious living. He leaves behind a really amazing legacy, which includes several books (one of them a translation of Rumi poems). His books – and the architectural plans for his structures – can be purchased via Cal-Earth.

Studio 360 did an excellent show this weekend that included a bit of a tribute to his work and included old interviews with Khalili. Listen to it by using the player below, or visit Studio 360′s website.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

The Iran Cheetah Project

Iran cheetah
Despite continued political tensions between the United States and Iran, the Iran Cheetah Project, a joint effort of the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Iran’s Department of the Environment (DOE), is working to study and save the Asiatic cheetah (also referred to as the Iranian cheetah, and “yuz palang” in Persian). Just 60 to 100 of these cheetahs remain in the world, and their only home is Iran’s desert plateau. I discovered this project on a recent trip to the Bronx Zoo and called Luke Hunter of the WCS to find out more.

Initially funded by the UNDP, the project began in 2001 after the Iranian government asked the WCS to lend its expertise in conservation methods. Earlier this year, the U.S. granted its permission to the WCS to begin radio collaring the animals (though the WCS is apolitical, Hunter says it must adhere to U.S. laws and restrictions because it is an American organization), and in March, two male cheetahs were captured and collared. Now data is being collected to determine what the needs of these cheetahs are and how best to conserve them. Hunter says the goal is to collar eight cheetahs, representing about 10% of the population, in order to gather enough data. The DOE’s website has some really cool photos and video of the animals, an impressive list of progress made, and lots of reports. It may just be the most useful, well organized English-language Iranian site I’ve seen in a while.

The Iranian cheetah has become a symbol of Iran’s conservation efforts, and Hunter explained that Iranian student groups, such as the Iranian Cheetah Society, are quite proactive in starting their own wildlife NGOs and running independent, albeit smaller, projects. Hunter is returning to Iran in November and hopes to initiate studies of other animals there; these WCS projects would have the added benefit of being opportunities for Iranian students to do field work. Unfortunately, the WCS is restricted from hiring Iranian nationals in Iran (the Iranians are employed directly by the DOE), but Hunter says the WCS can provide training to the Iranian students and did so when work was done earlier this year to collar the cheetahs.

Rooz Online recently reported that Iran’s Department of Environment is in crisis, but I have not found other English-language reports to corroborate this story and Hunter says that the Iran Cheetah Project has not been affected in any way. To support the project and help save the Iranian cheetah, donate to the WCS (you can specify “Iran Cheetah Project”).

If anyone has knowledge of Iran’s other conservation and environmental efforts, or information about the DOE story, please leave a comment.

[Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society]

Update 8/24/07: The Persian text of this post is now available on Radio Zamaneh. Many thanks to Sourena Mohammadi for translating.