Project to save en­dan­gered Asi­atic chee­tah gains steam

Cars, farm­ers and lack of food have con­trib­uted to the an­i­mal slowly dy­ing out

Gulf News - - MIddle East -

Ira­nian en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have mo­bilised to pro­tect the world’s last Asi­atic chee­tahs, es­ti­mated to num­ber just 50 and faced with the threats of be­com­ing road­kill, a short­age of prey and farm­ers’ dogs.

“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 120 kilo­me­tres 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 120 km/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 from north­ern 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 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 num­ber­ing a dis­ap­peared Africa net­work, now 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, as some 20 gazelles gal­loped past be­hind him.

There were 20 sight­ings of the chee­tah in Sem­nan prov­ince last year.

“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.

AFP

A net­work of 92 spe­cially trained park war­dens cover a to­tal of six mil­lion hectares to pro­tect chee­tahs in Iran.

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