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Special Features

Iranian Women You Should Know: Mojgan Roustaei

September 26, 2020
Maryam Dehkordi
6 min read
Mojgan Roustaie is from Isfahan and was born in 1983. She and her husband set up the Noopak Crocodile on Qeshm Island
Mojgan Roustaie is from Isfahan and was born in 1983. She and her husband set up the Noopak Crocodile on Qeshm Island
At the age of 23, Mojgan Roustaie was honored as the youngest entrepreneur in the country. She and her husband now run the first and only crocodile farm in Iran
At the age of 23, Mojgan Roustaie was honored as the youngest entrepreneur in the country. She and her husband now run the first and only crocodile farm in Iran
Mojgan Roustaie studied zoology and wanted to do something unique and beneficial with her expertise
Mojgan Roustaie studied zoology and wanted to do something unique and beneficial with her expertise
Roustaie was ambitious and hard-working, despite the many challenges of setting up Iran's only crocodile park
Roustaie was ambitious and hard-working, despite the many challenges of setting up Iran's only crocodile park

 

Global and Iranian history are both closely intertwined with the lives and destinies of prominent figures. Every one of them has laid a brick on history’s wall, sometimes paying the price with their lives, men and women alike. Women have been especially influential in the last 200 years, writing much of contemporary Iranian history.

In Iran, women have increased public awareness about gender discrimination, raised the profile of and improved women’s rights, fought for literacy among women, and promoted the social status of women by counteracting religious pressures, participating in scientific projects, being involved in politics, influencing music, cinema... And so the list goes on.

This series aims to celebrate these renowned and respected Iranian women. They are women who represent the millions of women that influence their families and societies on a daily basis. Not all of the people profiled in the series are endorsed by IranWire, but their influence and impact cannot be overlooked. These articles are biographical stories that consider the lives of influential women in Iran.

IranWire readers are invited to send in suggestions for how we might expand the series. Contact IranWire via email ([email protected]), on Facebook, or by tweeting us.

 

**

The crocodile is a strange animal, mysterious and scary. When people hear the word, they often think of videos of a giant creature on the sudden attack, its eyes sharp and glinting, a mouth that opens wide enough to swallow any thirsty being, human or animal, that dares go near a lake or river, without causing even a slight vibration on the surface of the water.

Mojgan Roustaie has worked hard to changed the negative image of crocodiles. A young, passionate and determined woman from Isfahan, she was born in 1983, and, at the age of 23, she was one of Iran’s youngest entrepreneurs. 

Roustaie and her husband Behrouz Salarvand live on Qeshm Island, where they work to protect one of the largest crocodile species in the world. Part of this involves breeding, and the couple hopes to breed enough that they can send young crocodiles to zoos and preservation centers around the world. 

Mojgan Roustaie has a zoology degree. She and her husband started their careers in Tehran, but they both knew they wanted to work for themselves. “In 2006, we decided to start a creative career in my field of study, “ said Roustaie. “After a while, we came up with the idea of ​​raising crocodiles. We had the idea, but we did not have Persian sources on the subject. When we talked to someone about it, they thought we were joking, and they scared us."

But Roustaie and her husband dismissed their fears and focused on their determination, creativity, and perseverance. In 2006, when they decided to implement their idea, no guidelines existed for people wanting to launch wildlife protection initiatives, and nothing was in place to support them. It was not even clear what they had to do to get a license.

 

The Challenge of Innovation in Iran

In fact, bureaucracy is one of the biggest problems confronting people who want to do something new and creative in Iran. The timeframe from the spark of the idea to implementation can be long, not least because of the amount of time it takes for permits to be issued. In many cases, people end up abandoning their ideas due to such protracted periods of waiting for the required documentation for setting up a business legally. However, Roustaie and her husband were committed to their idea, and eventually succeeded in setting up their organization, Noopak.

When setting up her business and naming it Noopak, Mojgan Roustaei set out their vision: the word noopak means “dynamic innovation.” She works with three principles in mind: dynamism, innovation and hard work, and she ensures these principles drive everything the organization does. 

The initial capital to launch the project was substantial. "We talked to my father and sold our house, car and everything we had to make money for the project,” Roustaei says. “The Agricultural Bank allocated about 100 million tomans [US$4,000] as a loan. For the 100-million-toman-facility, we rented two houses, one in Tehran and the other in Isfahan. About 400 million tomans [$16,000] of investment was collected with the help of loans, savings, and family assistance."

Next, Mojgan Roustaie had to register the company. "In 2007, we established a company called Pouya Kimia Qeshm Innovators, which is now the operating company of Noopak Qeshm Crocodile Farm and Park and known as an innovative and entrepreneurial scheme in Iran. I am the managing director and my husband, Behrouz Salarvand, who is an engineer, is in charge of designing and supervising the construction and management of the farm."

The couple then decided to go abroad, to Malaysia and Thailand, to study crocodiles and learn about breeding as a profession. After a year of study, they took the next step: setting up their own environment in which to breed crocodiles.

Roustaie was in contact with many individuals, organizations and institutions to help her launch the business, including fisheries, environmental protection agencies and professionals, veterinarians and veterinary hospitals. Finally, in 2008, the first license to establish a crocodile farm in Iran was issued to Roustaei and Salarvand’s fledgling company. “We built the farm in Hengam and the first crocodiles were brought to the farm in February 2011. In the spring of 2011, we decided to launch our farm tourism initiative. So Noopak Crocodile Park on Qeshm Island became the first crocodile park in the Middle East."

 

Making History 

Today visitors to Qeshm's capital Hengam can go on guided tours of the crocodile park. Thousands of domestic tourists and hundreds of foreign tourists have visited the park since its opening. Others have come to the center to learn about working with and raising crocodiles. The farm employs 20 workers and is home to 200 crocodiles. Noopak is one of Hormozgan province’s most popular tourist destinations. After all, where else can you watch 50-centimeter-long crocodiles face to face or submerged in water without being afraid that you’ll be eaten? 

In 2013, the Noopak center made history with the birth of the first crocodiles born in captivity in Iran. Today, Roustaei and Salarvand are known as some of Iran’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. 

The latest news about Noopak, its crocodiles and the other animals who live there can be found on the park’s Instagram page, which has several thousand followers. 

Mojgan Roustaei has big goals for the park. "We have a 10-year plan, which we are currently one and a half to two years ahead on. The main goal was to launch, import, and breed crocodiles, all of which have been done successfully. We were the first to do this in Iran. The ultimate goal is to have a farm with a thousand crocodiles, which will be achieved as our reproduction projects continue and grow in the future.

“While we were planning to implement this project, property prices in Iran suddenly doubled. Many people even advised us to abandon our plans. They said: buy a house and invest your money in the housing market. Maybe if we followed the advice of those around us at that time, we would have made more profit. But investing in real estate was not entrepreneurship and job creation. We wanted to do something that would benefit others besides us. The risk was high, but we went ahead with the program and fortunately we succeeded."

 

Read other articles in this series:

Zinat Pirzadeh, Diaspora Comedian

Marzieh Boroumand, Children's Wartime Puppeteer

Fatemeh Sayah, the First Iranian Woman on a Diplomatic Mission

Tuba Azmoudeh, Founder of Iran's First Girls' High School

Moniro Ravanipour, Outspoken Writer in Exile

Nega Taghavi, Iran's Saffron Trailblazer

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