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Iran's only known cheetah cubs still thriving

08/04/2013 15:31:28
world/mid_east/iranian_cheetah_family_irs

The cubs were caught by camera trap in 2012

Three cubs will leave their mother soon
April 2013. The only confirmed Asiatic cheetah cubs in Iran in 2012 are still alive and are apparently thriving in Minadasht, north-eastern Iran. In early April 2013, an exceptionally large group of six cheetahs was seen and filmed by local people in the area. The group consisted of a mother with three adolescents and two other adults.

The quality of the film does not allow precise identification by spot comparison, however, the family is likely the same group caught by photo-trap in summer 2012. In early winter 2012-2013, they were watched by the game wardens from a distance for half an hour.

The cheetahs face various challenges during their first year of life, decreasing their chance of survival. Intensive studies in Africa have revealed high juvenile mortality among the cheetahs, even up-to 95% before reaching independence from mother (ca. 17 months) in eastern Africa. However, Asiatic cheetahs are extremely difficult to study which has made a proper investigation on their reproductive ecology in Iran impossible to conduct so far.

Every year, around 30 herds of livestock legally graze Miandasht's rangelands during winter. We have evidence of this female for the two previous winters in the area and it is likely that she spent the entire winter there, remaining un-detected amongst the livestock. No report of cheetah sightings were reported in these two years during their winter presence in Maindasht.

Enhanced protection & gazelle population
However, successful rising of three juveniles to their second year has been possible due to recent enhanced protection measures put in place by the Norkh Khorasan Department of Environment. Presently, gazelle population has reached to more than 600, twice population size of early 2000s. In the meantime, neighbouring reserves around Miandasht now should expect to see the juvenile cheetahs soon, as they leave their mother in summer/autumn of 2013 and disperse to new ranges. As the area is close to the border with Turkmenistan border, even trans-boundary dispersal is plausible.

Camera traps
After ceasing camera trapping during winter 2012-2013 due to presence of livestock, the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) and DoE are re-establishing the monitoring program by means of equipping all the areas water sources with digital camera trap to catch proper shots of the young cheetahs in order to develop a national photo ID for each individual. These IDs would help scientists to understand if they would be photographed in the same or other areas.

 

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