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.
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
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.