Search for cheetahs launched in new area of Iran
Pakistan border a difficult location to survey
Camera trap set up on probable cheetah path in Ravar Valley. Photo credit ICS
December 2012. South-eastern Iran has always been thought to hold the Asiatic cheetahs, however, no proper survey has ever been conducted in this part of Iran to assess the species status.
Accordingly, as part of the cheetah monitoring program initiated in late 2011, the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) has launched a new survey in the Darband Ravar Wildlife Refuge in partnership with camera traps shared by Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project and Panthera. The area, which is the south-eastern most reserve where the cheetahs have been confirmed in Iran, has been recently upgraded to Wildlife Refuge status due to recent reported cheetah sightings.
Cheetah killed in 2008
It was first noted as a cheetah site in 2008 when an adult male was killed in road incident; then a few months later, a coalition of two males were found to have been poisoned some 70 kilometres away from the first road incident location. This indicated that it was highly likely that the Ravar River valley is a suitable habitat for cheetah. Accordingly, the local Department of the Environment added more lands to the area to protect it. This semi-arid zone is the closest reserve to Pakistan where cheetah were once known to exist. Community-based programs have been also implemented in Ravar, including a conservation education program run by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS).
Camera traps to search for cheetah and leopard
Since early autumn 2012, the ICS' experts have been surveying the area and training game wardens for monitoring skills. However, unlike other cheetah habitats in Iran, it is not an easy area to survey, because it is near the border and there is a high chance of encountering drug smuggling caravans. To avoid this, eight camera traps have been deployed so far and a gradual increase in the number and area of coverage is planned. ICS are hopeful that they will find reliable evidence of the species as well as Persian leopard before the coming spring.
An Asiatic cheetah minutes after hunting a chinkara gazelle, photographed by Ravar's game wardens in winter 2011 in a salt pan.