DARAFTE, Mariwan Province — In the Iranian Kurdistan village of Darafte, the only sound that can be heard is the call of storks.
Storks living in Darafte on the edge of Lake Zrebar in Mariwan province have made the village a tourist hotspot. Darafte plays up to its reputation, its streets home to stork statues and emblems aplenty.
Jamal Qadiri, an environmental activist from Mariwan, takes care of the storks and builds nests for them.
"Some old berry trees around the village were home to the storks. One of the storks built its nest in one of the berry trees in the village. It was later cut down," Qadiri said.
"We now have more than 60 nests for the storks. The number of nests increases every year with their flight back. The village has been given the name City of the Storks."
Mahmood is a longtime resident of the village, who recounts old, fond memories of the storks.
"Storks lived here even 50 years ago," Mahmood said. "They have become a blessing for our village. Many tourists visit this village due to its storks. I got married 50 years ago, we had some berry trees down there. They used to build their nests in the trees. We count them one by one every day. We count how many eggs they lay and hatch."
Parents in the village teach their children to love local nature.
"I have seen storks build nests near our home since I was born," said student Aras Razayi. "They used to build their own nests. Now, my friends and I have to care for them. They make our village a very wonderful sight. I think where I live is unique on this earth."
Thousands of Iranian tourists flock to the village every year, in part to see its winged inhabitants. Some rent houses to stay in for several nights, a healthy source of income for the villagers.
"The Persians come to see them and take pictures," Haji Fatima said. "The storks go to the lake to bring food for their chicks. Each stork raises two to four chicks. When they start flying, they leave for a year. They return the next year, building nests for themselves."