Eleven leopards identified on proposed road route in Iran
Bafq Protected Area under threat from new road
Eight adult leopards have been identified in Bafq. (©ICS/YazdDoE/CACP/Panthera)
January 2013. During a one year monitoring program in Bafq Protected Area in central Iran, eleven Persian leopards were identified, including four males and four females, and two of them are accompanied by one single and one set of twin cubs. Moreover, one of single females was filmed accompanied by an adult male which can be indication of breeding of the third female in the population.
Launched in January 2012, a one year camera trapping program was implemented by the Iranian Cheetah Society(ICS) and Yazd Department of Environment in partnership with ( Asiatic Cheetah Project) CACP and Pantherato understand the population make up of the Asiatic cheetah and the Persian leopard across multiple reserves in central Iran, including Bafq.
It is unusual record two different families of the leopards in a single area in west Asia, and this suggests the high potential of Bafq to re-colonize surrounding habitats, if they are properly protected. According to recent information, the female with two cubs has successfully raised her cubs and they have now left her and become independent; her last image shows that she is now solitary, probably looking around to find a mate for the next year. Moreover, both of her independent offspring have been confirmed to be female, making 6 female leopards in a single reserve, assuming that all four of the other females are still alive.
Construction of a road through Bafq is a major threat to the areas cheetahs and leopards. Photo courtesy of ICS
Recently one of the Bafq Governor's Office authorities declared that the area does not merit protection, stating "We believe that with no more than two leopards and 6 cheetahs, Bafq Protected Area does not have high environmental importance to continue its protection as a reserve". However these investigations have revealed that the largest single population of the endangered Persian leopard in central Iran occurs in Bafq, and it is unusual to find six females in a similar sized area elsewhere in west Asia.
Bafq protected area - Under threat
Established in 1996, the 850 km2 Bafq Protected Area is one of the main habitats for various cats in Iran, but it is under severe threat from plans to construct a road through the area. The Iranian Cheetah Society, Yazd DoE and Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) are negotiating with communities and authorities over this potential threat, and huge media coverage has been brought to stop the road. Undoubtedly, the Bafq road is nowadays the largest concern for Iranian environmentalists for the survival of the Asiatic cheetahs and Persian leopards.
One of the adult females with a yearling cub in summer 2012 (©ICS/YazdDoE/CACP/Panthera)