Iraq Animals Get New Protection: Photos

Iraq's wildlife just got a conservation boost, as the Republic of Iraq will soon join a major international effort to protect wild animals and plants.

The Arabian oryx, a type of desert-loving antelope, is one of over 100 species that will gain new conservation protections in Iraq. That's because the Republic of Iraq will soon become the 180th country to join the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, according to an announcement made by the CITES Secretariat.

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The Persian fallow deer is a rare species of deer only found in some parts of Iraq, Iran, Khuzestan and northern Israel. The giant horns of males will have less chance of winding up over someone's fireplace, since CITES -- an international agreement between governments -- safeguards against worldwide trade in specimens of wild animals and plants.

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Golden jackals are wild canines related to wolves and dogs. In addition to Iraq, they live in parts of Africa, Asia and southern Europe. The good news, according to CITES, is that the population of these predators, at least in some locations, appears to be on the upswing. One reason could be the golden jackal's diverse diet: it eats everything from gazelles to termites.

The onager, also known as the Asiatic wild ass, is decreasing in numbers, according to CITES. This member of the horse family is native to deserts in Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel and Mongolia, in addition to those of Iraq.

International agreements, such as CITES, are particularly important for animals like birds, whose migrations can take place over many countries. The rare and beautiful red-breasted goose is on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with an "endangered" status.

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The Syrian brown bear used to have a much wider distribution, but it is now extinct in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Only Iraq, Iran, Turkey and parts of the former Soviet Union are home to the bear now. As for the other large predators on this list, habitat loss and poaching are threats.

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Sawfish worldwide, including the knifetooth sawfish, are greatly imperiled. George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, explained to Discovery News, "The snout and teeth of sawfish are easily caught in nets. Sawfish also spend most of their time right on our doorstep, visible in shallow, brackish water, so they are more vulnerable." They are on the "doorstep" of Iraq too, since they live in the country's coastal waters and estuaries.

This Eurasian lynx kitten, thanks to CITES and other protections, will hopefully grow into a majestic adult. The wild cat, eradicated from other places such as Western Europe, now has more population stability in other regions, like Iraq. It preys on fairly large-sized mammals and birds.

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The organization Nature Iraq recently took the first camera trap image of a wild Persian leopard in Iraq. Previously, it was thought that this stunning, large wild cat was only in parts of Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and a few other places. Protections, such as those provided by CITES, are critical for a species like this, which would otherwise be decimated for its fur. Habitat loss poses another threat.

Sharks like the whale shark can be the animal kingdom's best international ambassadors for conservation, since their habitat often covers waters of numerous countries. It would be impossible for one nation alone to secure their future. International agreements like that of CITES demonstrate how multiple, diverse countries can come together for key goals. Iraq officially enters into the CITES agreement on May 6 of this year.