The Asiatic Cheetah is one of the rarest and most beautiful cats in the world, living in two areas of the Miandasht Wildlife Refuge and Turan Biosphere Reserve. Unfortunately, the Asiatic Cheetah is severely endangered and its population has decreased significantly. To preserve and revive this unique species, joint efforts are needed by the government, researchers, rangers, farmers, etc.
For this purpose, the second National Iranian Cheetah Day conference was held on August 29th of this year in Jajarm County. In this conference, which was attended by environmental activists, provincial and county officials, Iranian Cheetah Society experts, and those interested in protecting endangered species, the latest status of the Iranian cheetah, its protection and reproduction strategies, public awareness and education on the importance of protecting endangered species, the role of civil society organizations in promoting environmental protection culture and especially endangered species were discussed.
The Iranian Cheetah Society also presented a summary of the conditions of Iranian cheetahs and hopes and threats to their return to Miandasht in the near future in this program for audiences. The conference was also an opportunity for communication and collaboration between environmental activists, officials, and people interested in protecting endangered species.
It is hoped that with the continuation of this trend, we will witness the return of cheetahs to the Miandasht Wildlife Refuge.
The Iranian Cheetah Society has been helping to protect the habitat of the Iranian cheetah by providing the salaries of two rangers in the Turan Biosphere Reserve for several years. Ahmad Tea Company and Negin Processing Company have taken over the salaries of these two ranger assistants this year. The ranger assistants can participate in various activities with the rangers and take a lot of burden off their shoulders. In return, the rangers who are judicial officers will have more time to patrol and control the habitat.
This year, like the past two years, Mr. Mohammad Hossein Keyghobadi and Mr. Amin Zahirnejad who are hired from local communities, have been performing their duties as ICS rangers in Turan National Park from the beginning of April to the end of the Persian year. Ahmad Tea Company and Negin Pardazesh Company have taken over the salaries of these two rangers this year.
Every year, in winter and summer, rangers and volunteers survey the protected areas of Iran. These surveys mainly focus on counting ungulates and play an important role in assessing the status of the area, especially when independent experts and volunteers join them. The experts of ICS also participated in this program with the rangers and other volunteers, experts, and enthusiasts of Touran wildlife. The survey took place from August 6 to 9.
Touran Biosphere Reserve covers an area of one and a half million hectares and is one of the largest and most important protected areas in Iran. This reserve has high biodiversity and hosts many unique and endangered wildlife species such as the Persian leopard, Asiatic Cheetah, Gray wolf, wild sheep, wild goat, etc. This reserve plays an important role in maintaining the ecological balance of the region’s desert habitats. Touran Biosphere Reserve is a known World Heritage Site.
An Asiatic Cheetah was spotted in the unprotected zone between Turan Biosphere Reserve and Miandasht Wildlife Refuge. The cheetah was in poor condition, panting, and had a bloody mouth. A leech was attached to the underside of its tongue. The young male cheetah, named “Tara” by the Department of Environment of Semnan in 2019, had not been seen for a long time until about 3 weeks before his death when his images were recorded after several years in our camera trap area in Touran. After the death of the cheetah and the protest of the ICS to the DoE based on suspicion about the causes of death, the DoE promised to hold a meeting to review the issue with us and independent veterinarians. The death of a young male cheetah is a serious blow to the fragile population of cheetahs in Iran. Here are all of the incidents that we heard of. Any of them may be confirmed or rejected by DoE:
- According to local reports, the cheetah had stayed in the same area for several days and could not leave. Even when the rangers arrived (Sunday morning, August 5), he remained under the trees and seemed too weak to flee.
- The images (which the Iranian Cheetah Society has and will publish with the Department of Environment’s permission) show his weakness, panting, mouth bleeding, and leech infestation.
- A veterinarian from Semnan Department came to examine him on Sunday night. On Monday morning, he was anesthetized and taken to Abbasabad station.
- His mouth and throat were full of leeches. He received serum at the anesthesia site to treat his severe anemia.
- He was moved from Abbasabad road to Miyami, towards the Cheetah Breeding Center in north Turan National Park before noon.
- No precise information is available about his transfer box and condition during the move.
- After reaching Delbar Station, he died of severe anemia and his body was sent to the Department of Environment for autopsy and investigation.
- The autopsy report and transfer operation are not yet accessible to independent reviewers.
ICS will keep following up until the issue is clear because this loss to the wild population, especially with the known decline in males, can be irreversible. Stay tuned for more news.
In May of this year, camera traps were able to record the first cheetah breeding of 2023 in the Touran National Park. This image shows Khorshid (Talkhab) with her four small cubs drinking water at a watering hole. This female cheetah was only recorded once by cameras last winter. She was born in 2016 and has had three successful births so far, all three generations of which have been recorded by cameras. This is the first time in Iran that we have witnessed three births of a female cheetah. Before that, Mana, a female cheetah from Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, had been seen twice with her cubs.
Continuous monitoring in each habitat leads to valuable results such as information on the minimum number of births that have occurred. In the case of Khorshid, we know that she gave birth to three cubs in 2019, two cubs in 2021, and four cubs this year. We also know that one of her cubs from 2019, named Telma, gave birth to four cubs in 2022.
Effective conservation of the habitat by rangers has increased security and a good abundance of prey, as a result of which we can see such images. The vast habitats of cheetahs in Iran have many difficulties and problems that can only be preserved or increased by allocating several times more resources and equipment; otherwise, the few remaining Asiatic cheetahs will be defeated by threats.
Efficient protection forces are essential for preserving endangered species such as the Asiatic Cheetah. By increasing the number of protection forces in each habitat, the quality of protection in the region can be improved. In 2021, the Iranian Cheetah Society hired two rangers in the Touran Biosphere Reserve. These rangers, who are also from the local community, help with patrolling, rehabilitation, and water supply to waterholes, among other activities. We were able to extend their contracts for another full year thanks to our national and international donors.
Ranger stations are often located in remote areas within protected regions, making it difficult to provide them with water and electricity. Many stations use solar power systems and have water transported by tankers and stored in reservoirs. However, the quality of this water can be affected by its source and storage time, potentially leading to health issues such as kidney diseases caused by the presence of salts and sediments. To address this, the Iranian Cheetah Society purchased water purification devices for ranger stations in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge with support from Elite Company. These devices will help ensure that park rangers have access to clean drinking water, improving their living conditions. Improving living conditions for park rangers in cheetah habitats is a priority for the society, and it has been achieved in various ways over the years. By providing support to park rangers, the Iranian Cheetah Society is helping to protect cheetah habitats and promote conservation efforts.
Following the news of the release of new areas for mining exploration, the society expressed its concern to the government about the new mining activities in Touran and Miandasht and published the response for public awareness. In the image, the extensive overlap of the new area with the last viable habitat of the cheetah in Iran can be seen. The green area indicates the border of the Touran Biosphere Reserve and the red line is the area released in the cadastre system of the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade with an area of about 16 thousand square kilometers. An area that practically includes all points of cheetah observation in Touran.
In the follow-up, we learned that the Office of Habitats and Protected Areas Affairs, which is responsible for issuing mining permits in the Department of Environment, had considered this announcement illegal and had also reflected the violation to the judiciary. In a recent meeting with the director general of this office, we also received a letter from the judiciary to the Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Trade regarding these areas. In this letter, which cannot be published publicly for legal reasons, the judiciary has warned the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade that if it repeats violations of regulations by not issuing permits in protected areas, this will be considered a violation of government employees’ law and will face serious confrontation by the judicial system.
Effective wildlife conservation involves collaboration among various stakeholders, including park managers, rangers, researchers, etc. To achieve this goal, it is essential to share information uniformly among these different groups. The Iranian Cheetah Society has taken an important step in this direction by sharing data obtained during 2021 in Asiatic Cheetah Population Monitoring Program with Touran Biosphere Reserve rangers. On Monday, May 15, 2022, rangers from the protected areas of the Turan Biosphere Reserve were informed of the results of studies in which they played a role in the study. Additionally, planning for the new year was done in consultation with them.
The Touran Biosphere Reserve is located in the Anatolian Iran deserts and comprises a variety of salt, gypsum, stone, and sandy habitats. It covers both clay lowlands and mountains and reaches altitudes of more than 2,200 m above sea level. Communities in the area depend mostly on agriculture and animal husbandry.
The Touran Biosphere Reserve is the second-largest complex of protected areas in Iran, covering an area of around 1,459,506.2 hectares. The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife species, including the Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubutus venaticus), Persian Onager (Equus hemionus onager), and the sand cat (Felis Margarita thinobia). Due to its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystems, the Touran Biosphere Reserve is an important site for conservation efforts.