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Just 20 individual cheetahs identified in Iran so far, including 6 surviving females

13/03/2013 12:35:59

Iran cheetah marking a tree. Courtesy of ICS

More areas left to be surveyed
March 2013. Based on recent camera trapping surveys in Iran, just 20 different Asiatic cheetahs have been identified in the country. Initiated in late 2011, the first comprehensive national population survey has been implemented by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) and Iranian Department of Environment (DoE) in partnership with Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) and Panthera

Around half of the country's known cheetah population exist in central province of Yazd with multiple reserves for the species, while rest of the cheetahs roam areas such as Miandasht, Kavir, Turan & Doruneh amongst.

The Asiatic cheetah has attracted intensive attention of national and international scientific communities who are studying various aspects of its life, particularly its population size. However, so far, no precise and accurate estimate of the species population was available, making assessment of conservation measures difficult, or even impossible.

Camera traps
Camera traps have been proposed as a useful way to estimate their numbers, based on other large cat research. However, due to lack of necessary equipment and funding, limited scientific training and absence of an experienced team of trained field biologists, this technique has rarely been applied to the Critically Endangered Asiatic cheetahs.

200 images revealed 20 cheetah - More work to be done
So far, the ICS has covered nine reserves where the cheetahs are known to exist and simultaneously, Plan4Land Society covered Turan, another of the cheetah reserves. On the basis of analysis of more than 200 images of the cheetahs, 20 different individuals have been identified. However, due to resource constraints, there are still vast landscapes where camera traps had no chance to cover, indicating that a proportion of the country's cheetah population has remained non-detected.

Iran's National Cheetah Monitoring Program research has revealed that the Asiatic cheetah population is so tiny and fragile, it necessitates immediate action to safeguard the species and its habitat.

Just 7 females - 1 killed by shepherds
In 2013, the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) targeted its mission to specifically monitor females. Out of only seven female cheetahs detected so far, one was killed by shepherds in Turan and only one of the rest was proved to have cubs. In order to evaluate reproductive status of the females, their areas will be intensively surveyed to find evidence of breeding to inform later conservation actions.

The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) is grateful to many organizations who contributed to this program. Special thanks go to Iranian Department of Environment (DoE), Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), Panthera, La Palmyre Zoo, Amersfoort Zoo, Stichting SPOTS, WWF, Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales, Parc des Felins, Prince Bernhard Fund for Nature and many individual donors who supported us during this period. Also, we should say a big thank you to many game guards and local experts who all passionately participated in this long effort. Last but not least, the ICS experts and volunteers who spent more than 15 months in the field to run the project and to analyse the data which all are highly appreciated.

Three cheetah cubs were photographed in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge in September 2012.

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