Iran’s bid to save chee­tahs

THREAT OF EX­TINC­TION AS NUM­BER IN RE­GION COULD BE AS LOW AS 50 Pro­tec­tion project launched in 2001 with sup­port of the United Na­tions.

The Citizen (KZN) - - WORLD - Garm­sar

Ira­nian en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have mo­bilised to pro­tect the world’s last Asi­atic chee­tahs, es­ti­mated to num­ber just 50 and faced with the threat of ex­tinc­tion. “The last time our photo traps caught a chee­tah here, it was two years ago. But we’re sure they are still in the re­gion,” said Ra­jab Ali Kar­gar, deputy head of the Na­tional Pro­tec­tion Project for the Asi­atic chee­tah.

His camp is just a stone’s throw from an old royal hunt­ing pavil­ion in the Garm­sar area of Sem­nan prov­ince, around 120km south of Tehran. But th­ese days, the fo­cus is on preser­va­tion rather than killing.

The world’s fastest land an­i­mal, ca­pa­ble of reach­ing speeds of 120km/h, once stalked habi­tats from the eastern reaches of India to the At­lantic coast of Sene­gal.

Their num­bers have sta­bilised in parts of south­ern Africa, but they have prac­ti­cally dis­ap­peared from north­ern Africa and Asia.

The sub­species Aci­nonyx ju­ba­tus ve­nati­cus, com­monly known as the Asi­atic chee­tah, is crit­i­cally en­dan­gered, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture, mostly due to past hunt­ing.

Iran launched its pro­tec­tion project in 2001 with the sup­port of the United Na­tions “when we re­alised Iran was the last coun­try to have any Asi­atic chee­tahs”, said Hooman Jokar, who heads the pro­gramme.

It set up a net­work, now num­ber­ing 92 spe­cially trained park war­dens, who cover a to­tal of six mil­lion hectares in cen­tral and north­ern Iran.

“Every day, we cover hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres to track wild an­i­mals in the park,” said war­den Reza Shah-Hos­seini.

There were 20 sight­ings of the chee­tah in Sem­nan prov­ince last year. The an­i­mals face three prob­lems: cars, farm­ers and noth­ing to eat.

“Many think that with­out this pro­gramme the chee­tah would have to­tally dis­ap­peared from Iran,” said Jokar.

The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s was dev­as­tat­ing for wild an­i­mals, par­tic­u­larly along the coun­try’s western bor­der. It was thought for a time that the chee­tahs had been wiped out, un­til they were found to have re­treated into the cen­tral desert re­gions. – AFP

Pic­ture: AFP

EN­DAN­GERED. A fe­male Asi­atic chee­tah named Dal­bar snarls in an en­clo­sure at the Pardisan Park in Tehran. Ira­nian en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have mo­bilised to pro­tect the world’s last Asi­atic chee­tahs.

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