“Based on recent camera trapping surveys in Iran, only 20 different Asiatic cheetahs have been recognized in the country. Initiated since late 2011, the first comprehensive national population survey has been implementing 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, etc.
The Asiatic cheetah has attracted intensive attention of national and international scientific communities to answer various aspects of its life, particularly its population. However, so far, no precise and accurate estimation of the species population was available, making assessment of conservation measures difficult, or even impossible. Camera traps have been proposed to be useful for abundance estimation, based on other large cats experiences. However, due to lack of necessary equipment and fund for implementation, drawback in scientific methods and absence of an experienced team of trained field biologists, this technique has rarely been applied to the critically endangered Asiatic cheetahs.
So far, the ICS has covered nine reserves where the cheetahs are known to exist and simultaneously, Persian Wildlife Foundation covered Turan, one 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.
As approaching to the first round of the Iran’s National Cheetah Monitoring Program, the most significant message is that the Asiatic cheetah population is so tiny and fragile which necessitates immediate actions to safeguard the species and its range. In 2013, the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) has targeted its mission to monitor specifically females. Out of only seven female cheetahs detected so far, one was killed by shepherds in Turan whereas 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 for 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 analyze the data which all are highly appreciated.”