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Iranian Cheetah Conservation Day


By Bijan Rohani (source: Radio Zamaneh)

They say that outside the African Continent, Iran is the only country where a limited number of leopards still make their home in the fields; however, their number in Iran is estimated to be little more than 50 heads. The Asiatic Cheetah is a beautiful and agile species that is now apparently breathing its last breaths. With its only habitat now limited to Iran, the Asiatic Cheetah is on the verge of extinction and after the Amur leopard, it is the most endagered feline in the world.

Nature lovers in Iran have made a serious effort in recent years to protect this feline species. The Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) in Iran was launched in 2001 under the supervision of the UN Development Programme with the cooperation of Iran's Department of Environment. Since then, several national and international organizations have collaborated with this project in order to guarantee the long-term survival of the few remaining cheetahs.

August 31 was named Iranian Cheetah Conservation Day, presenting a variety of programs to familiarize the public with this rare and endangered animal. The people involved in the project regard the Iranian cheetah an important part of Iran's natural anf cultural heritage.

The designation of this day as Iranian Cheetah Conservation Day is based on a regrettable event. In 1996, a female cheetah and its three cubs arrived near Bafgh in Yazd Province to drink water. The animals were surrounded by a group of people who attacked them with rocks and sticks. Two of the cubs were killed, and although the injured mother got away, no trace of her was ever found.

The third cub, however, was rescued and transferred to Pardisan Park in Tehran. She was named Marita, and the day of her rescue was named as the national day for the protection of the Iranian cheetah. It was hoped that Iranians would become aware that their country is the habitat of one of rarest living beings in the world, because the protection of this endangered species depends not only on government efforts but also on citizen awareness. This is the first time that a day has been named for an endangered species.

Iranian Cheetah
Photos: A Lone Iranian Cheetah

Non-governmental organizations are also active in protecting the Iranian cheetah and informing the public in this regard. The Iranian Cheetah Society is a non-profit NGO that began its activities in 2001 with a mission to study and protect the species as well as inform the public about it.

This year the society collaborated with several other bodies to organize a festival on August 29 and 30 at the Tehran Zoo to mark Iranian Cheetah Conservation Day. Iran's Department of Environmental, the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project, Tehran City Hall, and Eram Park were among the groups and organizations that supported the festival, which included workshops for the public. The Iranian Cheetah Society has issued a statement proposing ways to protect the animal. Some of the society's suggested solutions are: a ban on all hunting in the cheetah's habitat, the protection of their natural rangeland, empowering of law enforcement officials to protect cheetahs, and public education.

A stall specifically for children was also part of the festival, offering information and activities created by children who were educated in wildlife for the past few years by the Iranian Cheetah Society.

It has been estimated that there are about 10 natural habitats for this animal across Iran. These are mostly in the Kavir Deser and eastern Iran. These areas are not on the list of National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and protected areas. The Iranian cheetah can be found in parts of Kerman, Khorasan, Semnan, Tehran and Esfahan Provinces.

There are no exact statistics about the number of the Iranian cheetah. Head of the national protect for the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project reports that there has been no counts this year but according to earlier counts, there are just over fifty cheetahs left in Iran.

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