Universum Wild Wonders of Iran
What we know about Iran is very limited: it’s a Muslim country in Asia Minor with lots of oil and
natural gas; and there is desert. But this is such a small part of what Iran has to offer.
In fact, Iran is not only desert! Lush green forest, sub-tropical lagoons, huge mangroves, vast
steppes and snow covered mountains – this is IRAN! It is the incredible wealth of natural
landscapes and habitats which makes this country so special – a birthplace of life, especially
for Eurasian species.
This documentary takes us to places nobody expects to find in Iran: lush forests, snow covered
mountains and subtropical mangroves. Brown Bears and Persian Leopards roam the northern
forests whereas Asiatic Black Bears and Mugger Crocodiles struggle to find water in the arid
south east. In the middle of the desert thousands of flamingos gather in a huge salt lake, while
a viper surprisingly meets its match in… a hedgehog.
The People of Iran struggle as much as the animals to make a living in this land of extremes.
Nomads have to take off onto a dangerous journey crossing a mountain ridge with all their
livestock, carrying babies, tents and cooking pods with them just before a thick layer of snow
covers all the pastures. In Baluchistan province, villagers share their ponds with a dangerous
neighbor: while women wash dishes and kids play in the water, a mugger crocodile lurks
nearby, waiting for a chicken or goat to come closer…
A LAND FULL OF SURPRISES
With an area of 1.7 million km² Iran is as big as western Europe! It’s a land of extremes: over
half of the country is mountainous: the Elburz range in the north, the Zagros range in the
West. They enclose the Iranian plateau, blocking the rain clouds, with lush forest on one side,
steppes and desert on the other. To do justice to these extremes we shall explore 6 contrasting
locations: the Elburz Mountains with the dense Caspian Forest, lagoons and fruit plantations
along the Caspian Sea, the Zagros range with its giant ridges and array of high peaks,
salt deserts in the Kavir and sand dunes in the Lut desert, the stone desert of Baluchistan, and
the wetlands and mangroves along Iran’s southern coast.
Using the extreme contrasts between the six different locations, the documentary will show
how different strategies have let animals, and also humans, adapt to these habitats, to extreme
weather conditions, to life in Wild Iran. In the lush Caspian Forest, the Brown Bear does
not have to fear other predators, but still he has a fierce opponent: Wild Boars! As they are
not hunted in Iran, their numbers increase enormously and they eat everything they can find
on the ground. Thus the Brown Bear has to climb trees to find food…
In the South East, the Asiatic Black Bear also climbs trees for food, but not because other
ground dwellers erode the ground: there is simply not much other food available. The landscape
is dry, with hardly any rain. But close to the Oases, palm trees bear juicy dates…
High up in the Zangros Mountains, another animal developed a unique method to catch prey:
On the edge of a rock cliff something is moving. It looks like a spider - a big spider that would
make a filling snack. Quickly a bird flutters to the rock. Just as it spears its beak down onto
the spider, the rock starts to move. Within milliseconds, fangs sink into the bird. A trap! What
looked like a spider was the tail of the Iranian Spider-Tailed Viper! An incredible way to catch
prey that has only been captured on film once before!
Iran´s landscape is breathtaking. Huge mountain chains, up to 5000 meters high, cut through
the land and form massive barriers that can best be visualized using aerials. Dense green
forest and endless deserts – the contrasts in Iran could not be greater. Dolly shots along vast
sand dunes, trees that are old as hills and flowers that grow in barren steppes will give the
perfect framework for classic long lens animal stories. High-Speed shots will further intensify
Due to years of war and exploitation of natural resources, Iran´s wildlife was almost exterminated.
Nowadays, the animals are shy and flight distances are enormous. Especially iconic
animals such as Brown Bears, Asian Leopards, Asiatic Cheetahs and Asiatic Black Bears are
threatened species and difficult to find. Long lens footage but also camera traps and other
special cameras, e.g. cave cameras, will give a rare insight into the animals´ lives
Writer and Director: Heike Grebe
Production Management: Lucia Metzbauer
Executive Producer: Heinrich Mayer-Moroni, Nikolaus Klingohr
Commissioning Editor ORF: Franz Fuchs
Executive Producer ORF: Andrew Solomon