Fantastic camera trap photos of three cheetah cubs in Iran
Protection of prey paying dividends for Iran's cheetahs
Asiatic cheetah with three cubs in Iran. Courtesy of the Iranian Cheetah Society
September 2012. A family of Asiatic cheetahs has been photo-trapped for the first time in north-eastern Iran. During an ongoing intensive monitoring of the cheetahs by means of camera traps in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, an adult cheetah with her three small cubs was photographed. The animals were recorded on several occasions while coming to water sources to drink. No older than three months, the cheetah cubs, still with their mantle which is typical of small cheetah cubs, look very healthy.
In August 2010, another family of the cheetahs, two cubs with their mother, was sighted in this area. These photos of another family in north-eastern Iran highlight the area's high importance for breeding of the cheetahs.
Near Turkmenistan border
These animals, which were spotted not far from Turkmenistan border, have raised scientists' hopes to find more evidence of the Asiatic cheetahs within their historical range outside Iran. Since 1982, the last time cheetahs were officially reported in Turkmenistan, no cheetah has been confirmed across its Asian range outside of Iran.
Iranian cheetah usually raise 2 cubs
In Iran, the cheetahs normally have two cubs, though there are cases in which litters of more than two are born, they are not usually successfully raised beyond six months. Although this is not unusual in cheetahs (In Africa, they occasionally produce as many as 5-6 cubs, but only very rarely will all the cubs survive), it is a concern, with cheetah being so rare in Iran, that not all the cubs will survive.
Increased protection of prey
After cheetah prey was heavily depleted in the early 2000s, Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, a much higher level of protection was implemented in recent years after cheetahs were spotted in. Since then, cheetah have been sighted more than 50 times in the area. However, camera traps have, until now, recorded solitary individuals. Six other carnivores have also been recorded in this area, including grey wolf, striped hyena, golden jackal, common fox, wild cat and stone marten.
Presently, the area is managed by the North Khorasan Department of Environment in an effort to protect the cheetahs and their prey, goitered or Persian gazelle, numbers of which have increased dramatically in recent years, by some 100% compared to a decade ago. Educational programs have been regularly implemented within communities around the area.
Camera traps are important monitoring tool, enabling scientists to find evidence of species presence and to explore how many cheetahs exist, based on their individuall i.e. spot patterns. Moreover, they indicate the size and health of the breeding population. Meanwhile, they provide opportunities for experts and game wardens to explore and monitor more remote portions of the area, to patrol different parts and of course, to control poaching.
Recent camera trapping program in Iran has revealed that the cheetah population is smaller than was previously thought.
Read more about the work of The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS)