January 2008- Ecological and population studies on the Iranian cheetah in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge has been undergoing using camera trapping technique. Following assessment of the cheetah main habitat in the area according field researches, a total of 15 camera traps were set up at various spots in the area since end of August till mid of December. Given the limited availability of water resources in desert habitats at the end of summer, we tried to set up most of the cameras at the trails reaching to waterholes. All the cameras were picked up just before immigration of ranchers to the area at the end of December. According to the results of camera trapping survey, it seems that striped hyena possesses a fairly good population in the area and wolves have established a breeding population in Miandasht. Comparing the results of setting cameras in the years 2004 and 2007, it seems that population of hares has notably reduced and considering this animal as one of the main food items of the cheetahs in Miandasht, it may affect the population of cheetahs impressively.
Another interesting point on setting the camera traps is the extension of wild boar’s distribution from north southward. It should be noted that this species did not exist in Miandasht before 2000s, though it occupied the area from the northern reserves and extended its range of distribution from north to the south during the past couple of years. Severs droughts at the end of 1990s are considered as one of the motivating factors for immigration of the boars. Unfortunately, no cheetah was captured during the camera trapping efforts which raised the question on destiny of the area’s cheetah population which was estimated to be around 6 to 10 animals in 2004.
Fortunately, once patrolling in the area, an adult cheetah was sighted from 30 meters by one of the ICS staffs which was quite motivating to go ahead. Moreover, several signs of the creature were found on borderlands which indicate that the animals have changed their distribution from core zone to mountainous habitats. Presently, Miandasht Wildlife Refuge is one of the last habitats of the critically endangered Asiatic cheetahs in Iran and holds the highest rate of cheetah sightings among the species habitats in the country.