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.
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.
Rangers of Touran National Park captured this footage from a Cheetah family in Touran Biosphere Reserve yesterday. This family was recorded previously and is known as the “Talkhab Family”.
ICS and Qazvin’s DOE had signed an agreement in order to study the conflicts between humans and wildlife in the Tarom Sofla area. Identifying solutions and also propose management methods to decrease these conflicts are the aims of this agreement.
According to Qazvin’s DOE report, the ICS’s scientific and practical capacities were considered in solving these conflicts in the Tarom Sofla area. Identification type and impact of conflicts of wildlife on human life in the area, finding the reason for these conflicts, determine the priority of damages which were made by wildlife for human life, determine the solutions to decrease these conflicts with the help of locals and etc, are the purpose of ICS’s activity in the conservation area of the Tarom Sofla in 2021.
The conservation area of the Tarom Sofla is a good conservation habitat for Iranian leopards. Also, there are other spices like brown bear, lynx, wild goat in the area.
The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), supported by IUCN Netherlands, succeeded in evacuating livestock in 5,600 hectares of rangeland on the edge of Touran National Park. This intervention soon paid off; these photos are the first pictures of the Asiatic Cheetah’s presence in this area! Unfortunately, even though the 5,600 hectares are located in a vital part of the cheetah’s habitat in Iran, no cheetah pictures were available from this area.
[irp posts=”22791″ name=”The starting of nationwide population monitoring the Asiatic Cheetah”]
Livestock evacuation from the rangelands in this area became a priority action for ICS and the Iranian Department of the Environment (DOE) in this region to protect the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah from extinction. ICS estimates that less than 30 Asiatic Cheetahs remain in the wild, all of them in Iran. ICS managed to revoke the grazing permits and installed the camera traps in this area to ensure the presence of this valuable species.
Annually, almost 80.000 livestock in more than 120 herds with 300 dogs are allowed to roam across the Touran Biosphere Reserve. However, due to drought in recent years, herds occupy the most suitable pastures and proper habitats. This makes the ungulates and their predators move to less-preferred areas during harsh winters. Besides, the wildlife is also directly affected because of many herd dogs within the area, as well as cryptic poaching efforts by herders. Poachers also find more opportunities during grazing seasons because they can pretend they are herders looking for their livestock or trying to find proper vegetation for their animals.
In fact, due to the presence of livestock higher than this arid area’s capacity, Touran Biosphere Reserve provides risky winters for the wildlife, both due to drawbacks in proper grazing habitats for the wildlife as well as much more susceptibility to the poachers due to the presence of many people inside the area.
Accordingly, several Asiatic Cheetahs have been caught/killed by people/herd dogs in recent years during their presence with their domestic animals. Also, overgrazing threatens Asiatic Cheetah’s prey with limited food resources and makes them go to higher elevations because their habitat is occupied by livestock.
These recorded photos are the first pictures of the cheetah’s presence in this area. According to the identification database, they belong to identified cheetahs with the names of Telma and Fegheh. Thus, the recorded presence of these two cheetahs in the new area is now undeniable, which is a fascinating reward for the hard work of our field team.
Currently, ICS monitors all critical Asiatic Cheetah spots in Touran Biosphere Reserve using camera traps in cooperation with the Iranian DOE.
[irp posts=”22522″ name=”Creating a Livestock-Free Wildlife Refuge to Safeguard the Critically Endangered Asiatic Cheetah”]
Conservation is a complicated field that could differ with different situations and the target species. These complication gets higher when the local people and their interests are involved in a project. One of the biggest enigmas for conservationists is creating a win-win situation. Therefore, they always need to assess the situation and use the previous experiences with an open mind.
Iran is home to the last wild population of Asiatic Cheetahs in the world. Two areas have always been of importance; Miandasht Wildlife Refuge and Touran Biosphere Reserve. Due to ICS investigations, it is clear that grazing rights are an endangerment for cheetahs in these areas. With the help of the Netherlands’ IUCN National Committee, we were looking for an appropriate and efficient solution for reducing the overgrazing pressure of livestock in the cheetah’s habitat. The initial idea was to relocate herders outside the national park to secure critical seasons (i.e., winter and spring) for the cheetah and decreasing livestock overgrazing pressure on the area’s fragile rangelands to provide resources for wild ungulates.
As the project furthered, we found out that the livestock grazing permission prices have doubled up. This made the available budget insufficient. Thus, the negotiations for buying all the available permits didn’t work out at the moment. Hence, the ICS came to an agreement with the DoE of Semnan province so they would pay for the rest of the budget.
The failure in providing the needed budget until 2017, reduction of Rial value, and increasing inflation made the ICS change the project location. After contacting other provinces’ Departments of Environment that host Cheetah and coordinating with the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) and the DoE of North Khorasan request, ICS finally relocated this project to this province. Again, the process of buying the grazing permits in the Miandasht Wildlife Reserve started, but because of the government budget allocation, the prices raised again, and once more, the project came to a stop.
In 2018 and after management changes in Semnan province, ICS reconsidered the Touran National Park for the project again. Finally, the negotiations with one of the stock owners were going according to the plans, and even the budget was enough this time. Still, unfortunately, because of the official technicalities, the project remained unfinished.
In 2020 the ICS and DoE both separately started corresponding with the Department of Forests and Rangelands and the Iranian parliament to discuss law enforcement’s absence, which never happened because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the ICS tried to maintain the agreement with the stock owner. Due to the one-year pause between the agreement, the price of grazing permits doubled again; we feared we would not be able to finalize the deal.
But we succeeded! We finalized our agreement with one of the most important permission owners in Touran Biosphere Reserve. With the revocation of the exploitation permit in the northern edge of Touran National Park, an area of 5,600 hectares will be permanently empty of livestock. This permit has covered 498 livestock.
Although this project was postponed due to unforeseen events, it brought us the same amount of lessons learned and ultimately ended in an impressive end.” We would like to thank Netherlands’ IUCN National Committee Land Acquisition Program for their commitment to make this a success. Because of our joint efforts, an important area has been secured for the next generation of Asiatic Cheetah in one of the key reserves.
The project “Securing Touran National Park for Asiatic Cheetahs” was officially funded by IUCN NL Land Acquisition Program in August 2014. The initial goal was to lease ca. 516 km2 of Turan National Park from grazing permit owners and securing critical seasons (i.e., winter and spring) for the Asiatic Cheetah and its prey species. The project started positively but experienced a series of unfortunate setbacks along the way, which has protracted the project for years.
Ultimately, an amendment was signed by ICS and IUCN NL to authorize the relocation of the project in 2017. This relocation was supposed to help ICS focusing on work rather than corruption and conflicts. Based on the amendment, the project title officially changed to “Creating a Livestock-Free Wildlife Refuge to Safeguard the Critically Endangered Asiatic Cheetah in Northern Iran.” This project is still ongoing in ICS, which is prioritized in the yearly work plan.
This year, IUCN NL celebrates the 20th anniversary of the IUCN NL land acquisition fund, which allowed over 100 NGOs to protect and connect the – often fragmented – habitats of endangered species. Stories of these local partners and their conservation efforts are presented in an extensive anniversary report. ICS has also shared its experiences during this complex project in the anniversary report.
You can download the “Anniversary report: two decades of land acquisition for conservation” from the box below.
Learn more about Land Acquisition Fund on the IUCN NL website
Read more about the 20th Anniversary report of land acquisition for conservation
The Asiatic Cheetah is a species with continuous movement. According to ICS’s data recorded throughout the 3 phases of the Population Monitoring Program, this animal can move over 200 kilometers in just a few months. Therefore safe corridors are of high importance in conserving this species. A significant portion of cheetah mortality also occurs in these areas.
The ICS is trying to observe the presence of cheetahs in these habitats through the “Explorers of Hope” Project. Based on habitat suitability modelings, these habitats are of high desirability and importance for the species or have recorded cheetah signs in them.
One of those areas is located in the province of South-Khorasan. A critical and the only corridor for the movement of the species from Naybandan wildlife refuge towards Semnan and Razavi-Khorasan provinces.
Received information claim that the South-Khorasan Department of Roads and Urban Development is planning to construct a new road in this area, connecting Bajestan to Boshruyeh. The department has also announced that the project is awaiting the permission of the Department of Environment.
According to the Iranian Environment and Wildlife Watch news agency, the South-Khorasan DoE has sent the plan to the office of Habitats and Protected Area Affairs in the central Department of Environment for confirmation. Concerning the importance of the issue, the ICS has sent a letter to this office regarding the potential threat that developing this road will make to the extremely endangered species of Asiatic Cheetah. We hope this department will strictly reject this plan; otherwise, the only possible connection point between southern and northern habitats would be disconnected by a 4-laned Road. We will stand against this project to make sure it will be canceled.
Ahmadi, Mohsen & Nezami, Bagher & Jowkar, Houman & Hemami, Mahmoud-Reza & Fadakar, Davoud & Malakoutikhah, Shima & Ostrowski, Stéphane. (2017). Combining landscape suitability and habitat connectivity to conserve the last surviving population of cheetah in Asia. Diversity and Distributions. 23. 592–603. 10.1111/ddi.12560.
The official correspondence of ICS with DoE confirms the rejection of the road plan, as it is capable of destroying two protected areas.
Habitats of Khorasan Razavi province have always had confirmed reports of the presence of Asiatic Cheetah. Data on the presence of this species have been recorded in areas such as Bardaskan, Khaãaf, Taybad, and Sabzevar counties in recent years. These data were intermittently recorded over the years, making it difficult and impossible to make conservative plans. In order to design a propitious program in the province, it is necessary to conduct field studies in a scientific and continuous manner.
Therefore, a meeting was held earlier this month with experts from Khorasan Razavi DoE and the ICS, and aspects of cooperation were discussed. According to arrangements, the ICS will carry out new studies in this province as part of its program to conserve northern habitats of the Asiatic cheetah. in a more integrated way with the companionship of experts from the DoE. Certainly, collecting scattered data from other cheetah habitats will help to increase knowledge about the unstable situation of cheetahs in Iran. This is a goal that the ICS is pursuing within the framework of the “Explorers of Hope” project.
In this regard, alongside expressing its resolution on this topic, the ICS, as a nonprofit institution tries to clarify some vague aspects of the issue as following:
– The recent actions have taken place through the project of cheetah reproduction in semi-natural condition. A project that has a long and successful history in African countries. In Iran, for the first time, Mr. Jurabchian as project manager of the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), raised this issue and proceeded to fencing the area in Miandasht wildlife refuge. After that Dr. Akbari, of Natural Environment deputy of Yazd Province, and Hooman Jokar, Project Manager of the CACP, expressed their optimism about the subject.
– In 2018, Mr. Zohrabi, Natural Resources deputy of the Department of Environment (DoE) at the time, held a series of meetings with veterinarians, university professors and experts living inside the country and abroad to examine options for cheetah conservation outside the habitat. Following the analysis and the pros and cons, the DoE decided that these options should be pursued in parallel with habitat protection and that previous efforts should continue.
– Following the request of DoE, the draft proposal to setting up and managing the semi-natural reserve, which was previously prepared by Mr. Jokar in the DoE, was submitted to the ICS for completion. The ICS prepared the activity description, a schedule, etc. This plan was written in such a way that the DoE or any of its provincial administrations could implement it by themselves.
– In September 2017, the ICS planned a trip to send its experts along with the Natural Resources deputy of the time and DoE specialists to visit and observe the achievements of South Africa. The ICS tried to introduce successful conservational experiences of South Africa to DoE authorities.
– The unofficial news and information release about the process of anesthesia and the transfer of cheetahs led to the same result that the ICS had warned about. Some misinformation published on social media caused a wave of discontent and apprehension. This ambiance created a great social cost for the DoE and the project. The ICS asked its consultants (who manage 380 cheetahs in more than 70 areas across South Africa) about the quality of the box conditions and the transfer process, and they confirmed the quality of the box and the device by viewing the photos published on the Internet.
– Cheetahs of Pardisan are on a high-risk and fateful path, and it is necessary for experts, including ecologists, veterinarians, etc. to play an active role in the success of the project.
– Reproduction project in Turan National Park, considering the lessons learned by Pardisan Reproduction Center, can increase its chances for success.
– The reproduction project in Turan National Park, considering the lessons learned by Pardisan Reproduction Center, can increase its chances for success.
– From the ICS’s point of view, the ideal conditions for cheetah reproduction are at least 1,000 hectare fenced area. According to the ICS’s planning in completion of the previous CACP plan, training female cheetahs for hunting should be on the agenda.
– The ICS, in consultation with its consultant, which manages the metapopulation program in South Africa, supports the method of reproduction in multi-thousand-hectare fences located in the natural habitat called reproduction in semi-natural conditions as a necessary approach.
In the end, the ICS and the Environmental Society expect the DoE of Iran to take responsible behavior and to implement the principle of participation by seeking synergetic cooperation of experts and members of the media.