So, when most of us think about Iraq we probably think about Saddam Hussein, oil, the Iraq War, the specularly disasterous “mission accomplished” pronouncement (as well as the years and casualties that continued to mount up after it), and the sectarian violence that has rocked the country for so long. What I bet you do not think of is pristine and protected wilderness.

Well, as it happens, Iraq recently established it’s first National Park. The area lies between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and is sometimes referred to as the “Cradle of Civilization” because of it’s role in the creation of agriculture, writing, the three great monotheisms, and even the wheel (and much more). The area also plays host to a variety of important fauna, and is an integral part of the ecosystem in the region.

I spoke with Dr Azzam Alwash, Chairman of Nature Iraq and a prime mover behind the project.

As before, I am unable to embed the audio in the email blast. You will have to visit the site to listen, and possibly turn off some do-not-track and cookie blocking functions.

Dr Alwash recently won the Goldman Environmental Prize, and Nature Iraq is pushing for the national park to be extended. You can follow them both on the Nature Iraq website here.