(Photos and Video by: ICS/DoE/CACP/Panthera)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 8
By: Umid Niayesh - Trend: The survival of the Asiatic cheetah, which is now also known as the Iranian cheetah, remains unsecured, Morteza Eslami, head of the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) told Trend on Nov. 8.
ICS is a non-governmental, organization working to save the Asiatic cheetah (which is now only found in Iran) for the sake of biodeiversity.
On November 3, Iranian Mehr news agency quoted Iranian Vice President and head of Environmental Protection Organization Massoumeh Ebtekar as saying that concerns for the cheetah's survival in Iran have by and large been mitigated.
Presently, there are between 40 to 70 Asiatic cheetahs in Iran, based on last three year's surveys conducted by ICS, Morteza Eslami said.
Commenting on the difference between the ICS and Iranian Environmental Protection Organization statistics, he said that in the recent survey they have used camera traps widely in Cheetah habitats which is a scientific study.
Earlier Iranian Environmental Protection Organization announced that population of the Asiatic cheetah is approximately 70 to 120.
Asiatic cheetah's population to be extinct in other Asian countries and the last few populations lived in Iran in Kavir National Park, Touran National Park, Bafq Protected Area, and etc.
Eslami underlined that the human activities factor including mining projects and road constructions in Cheetah habitants are threatening their life in Iran.
There is now a major challenge for one of the main habitats of the cheetah in Iran, the Bafq Protected Area, which is seriously threatened due to the construction of a road through the area's core zone.
Eslami said that efforts to halt the project have failed.
About two third of cheetah death were caused by road accidents in 2012-2013, Eslami underlined.
The cheetah is also affected by loss of prey as a result of overgrazing from livestock and illegal hunting, he underlined.
Commenting on the possibility of transferring the cheetahs to safe habitats, Eslami emphasized that it is a complicated issue, adding that surviving cheetahs in their current habitats, despite other ones indicates that, the current habitats have suitable circumstances for their survival.
Changing their habitats is risky and may not lead to success, he underlined.
"It is difficult for cheetahs to adapt to new habitats."
As the first step, the current habitats should be protected, and as the second step we can revive other habitats, he added.
Eslami also evaluated Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) as a good example of cooperation among nongovernmental and state organizations on the issue.
The CACP is a long standing initiative between Iran's Department of Environment, UNDP and a number of committed international partners, namely the Wildlife Conservation Society, Panthera, Cheetah Conservation Fund and IUCN's Cat Specialist Group. Phase I of the project was co-funded by the Global environment Facility and was implemented from 2001 to 2008.
On 3 November, an extension of Phase II was signed into action. The project is a joint partnership between Iran's Environmental Protection Organization and UNDP. It aims to continue research, train game guards and expand and upgrade protected areas.
The extended phase II (November 2013 - December 2016) will identify feasible livelihood options that could achieve a higher level of integration of local communities as active and long-term partners in protected area (PA) management.
By implementation of the CACP new environment watchers employed to serve in cheetah habitats and camera traps imported to Iran, Eslami said.
About 101 environment watchers are serving in the cheetah habitats presently, he said.
He also underlined that, some 650 camera traps are being used for survey in different habitats of cheetah.