Cheetahs have the unique distinction of being the fastest animal on land. Once spread across the south and east of Asia, these big cats have almost extinct in most parts of these lands. Their last known habitat was Iran, in the middle east of Asia. Due to the political crisis within the country, the data about Asian Cheetah could not be recorded earlier. But now a study reveals that even Iran is not a safe abode for these cats. Their population is on the decline and they are on the verge of being extinct.
To rectify this a comprehensive monitoring program was initiated by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in partnership with Iran’s Department of Environment, the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project and Panthera to understand demographic characteristics of the cheetahs in Iran between 2011 and 2013. As a result of extensive research & camera trapping, a population of just 40 to 70 individuals is now accepted for the entire country, significantly fewer than the previous estimate of 70 to 100.
Camera traps are reliable tools which are extremely useful for investigating population of elusive marked cats, such as the cheetahs. However, this technology has been rarely applied to the species due to its elusive nature and low density. In Iran, due to political sanctions, necessary equipment have been hard to come by which prevented a thorough status assessment previously due to the lack of sufficient camera traps.
Thanks to various donors and partners, the monitoring program was launched to fill this gap in knowledge. Accordingly, 10 reserves within Iran were covered by infra-red camera traps to provide reliable estimates of the cheetah population.
Thought to be declining
However, since no basic figure is available about the cheetah population for previous years, it is difficult to judge the population trends of the Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. Meanwhile, based on sporadic data available from previous years, it seems that the cheetah population has a decreasing in recent years, indicating it is probably at its lowest ever.
It is highly desirable to involve experienced conservation agencies to revise existing protection efforts in Iran in order to safeguard cheetah survival in the country.