March 2008- Located in the neighborhood of Ghorkhod Protected Area and Golestan National Park near Turkmenistan border, Behkadeh Reserve is considered as one of the leopard
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.
November 2007- The first ecological study on the brown bear in Iran has been conducting since 2006 by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in North Central Alborz Protected Area. Supported by the Iranian Department of the Environment (DOE) and Deutch Zoo Conservation Fund (DZCF), this research project has focused on various ecological aspects of the species as a part of “ICS Big Carnivores Program” in Iran. The study area is mainly composed of Hyrcanian mountain forests in northern Mazandaran province, aiming to provide a baseline for the future studies as well as to develop management plans.
The brown bear is the largest carnivore in Iran which has not yet been studied in the country as it deserves and there is not documented information about it in Iran as well as international organizations. Meanwhile, the growing conflict with local people and lethal control methods against it in most of the species range in the country have faced a serious threat to its survival. Accordingly, this research project was launched to work on the brown bear’s food habits, behavior, habitat selection, conflict with local communities, population status and reproduction. The species hibernation is fully unknown in Iran and no data is available on if the bear do so in various habitats of the country. Therefore, despite of harsh environmental circumstances in winter, bear hibernation was investigated during winter 2006-2007, concluding that the bears spend a minimum of 60 to 70 days inside their winter dens, probably one of the shortest hibernations among the species range throughout the world. Conflict between the animal and the local people in the habitat is relatively high, thus, a part of this research is dedicated to the local people, to probe into their problems and also their threats to the wildlife.
As mentioned on scientific literature, one of the most practical solutions to recognize different individuals of a bear population in a particular area during a short period of time is perhaps to recognize different individuals according to their appearance, color and some special morphological signs. We found a high variability of color patterns among the bears in the study area, from yellowish to quite dark and have been able to count at least 37 to 39 brown bears during a limited time of two months in the area’s core zone.
As well as the brown bear, some studies have been also accomplishing about the other available species in the area, including Persian leopard and Eurasian lynx. The Persian leopard is one of the most charismatic species which we have managed to get some valuable data about it, mainly on predation, habitat selection and conflict with local communities which a short communication has been published on spring 2007 issue of IUCN Cat News (you can download it from Library). Unfortunately, annually at least 15 to 20 domestic cows from 8 villages around the area are killed by the leopards and in return, at least 1 to 2 leopards get lethally eradicated, mainly through lacing carcasses with organochlorine pesticides to poison leopards returning to feed on a kill. Therefore, it seems extremely essential that the Iranian Department of the Environment needs to take serious measures to reduce this conflict.
October 2007- The first Iranian ecological study on Gray Wolf has been started since summer 2007 in Ghameshlou Wildlife Refuge, Esfahan province. Led by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) with cooperation of the Department of the Environment (DOE) and Environmental Sciences Research Center of Shanhid Beheshti University, the project is ongoing inside one of the best habitats of the species in the country where a high density of predators and preys occur. The main goal of this research project is to study on wolf’s impact as the area’s main predator on both wild and domestic ungulates, which is one of the main present concerns of the Iranian wildlife managers and experts.
According to investigations conducted since 2000 till 2004 by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in Esfahan’s Karkas Hunting Prohibited Area and Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, it was concluded that the wolf apparently prefers wild preys, particularly gazelle and wild sheep and is not usually a serious threat to domestic animals. However, the animal is usually sacrificed of human’s fear and is killed due to its historical antecedent and occasional tragedies of livestock slaughter, as well. For instance, in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge where herders considered it as the main threat to their livestock, it was found that during the period of winter grazing season in the area’s pastures, herders lose on average less than one head of animal per a herd to the wolves’ depredation. In order to more research on this hypothesis, preliminary surveys were conducted to find a suitable habitat where possesses high density of wolf and both wild and domestic ungulates… and Ghameshlou WR was selected.
According to the initial studies, goitered gazelle is the most important wolf’s prey in the area following by wild sheep, wild goat, hare, rodents and plant materials forming the species food menu in Ghameshlou. It must be added that wolves do some damages to the livestock, mainly sheep. The main approach of investigating the area’s wolf diet is to collect and analyze scat samples as well as kill monitoring. Estimation of ungulates population is another important step indicating the level of wolves access to wild preys.
With an area of around 80000 hectares, Ghameshlou WR is one of the most outstanding wildlife habitats in the country and beside Mouteh WR which is located in neighborhood, possesses the highest density of ungulates such as goitered gazelle and wild sheep. It is thought that both area’s wolf populations are in mutual interaction and ICS intends to conduct some researches in Mouteh WR to achieve to a comprehensive conclusion. It must be noticed that Mouteh had been among the Asiatic cheetah’s strongholds in the country and there has been some recent reports of cheetah’s presence verified by us in this region.
September 2007- The first festival of Asiatic Cheetah Protection day was held on Friday August 31. During these events which was the innovative plan of Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) with corporation of environmental organization and some of the NGOs all over Tehran and 19 cities and villages, some nomadic and educational programs were held due to introducing the cheetah to public. With a minimum population of 70 to 100, the Asiatic cheetah is known as the Iranian cheetah inside its last stronghold. Considering this day as cheetahs day has the main aim of enlightening public about Iranian cheetah and it also boosts public awareness about such pieces all over the country.
Darabad Museum of Nature and Wildlife and Tehran Zoo were hosting the first festival of Iranian cheetah protection day in Tehran. During the festival some governmental organization and NGOs such as ICS, the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), the Iranian Department of the Environment (DOE), etc held different educational programs such as movies, issuing pamphlets and posters, having some speeches for public about cheetah, educational games, holding painting competition, cheetah theater, etc. Finally, a joint statement was read in order to support the cheetah in the country.
Some other educational programs was held in more than 20 cities and villages all over the country with corporation of provincial offices of DOE, local NGOs and enthusiastic people in Esfahan, Shiraz, Mashahd, Yazd, Bafgh, Zahedan, Abadan, Jajarm , Choupanan, Tabas, Semnan, Taft, Semirom, Neyshabour, Eghlid and villages of Sheytour, Dolat Abad, Qotroom and Bajgan in Bafq Protected Area.
With respect to wide public welcome of holding programs, the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) plans to develop a central secretariat in order to organize and boost holding the Asiatic Cheetah Protection Day in coming years and invites all organizations, societies, and persons who are willing to corporate in this field all over the country.
Statement of the Asiatic Cheetah Protection Day
August 2007- Finally, the first scientific report about ecology and conservation of the cheetahs in Iran has been disseminated by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) which is result of field-based research surveys followed by public awareness campaign efforts since winter 2003 in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge. With an area of 85000 hectares, the area is the last confirmed cheetah habitat in Iran where is located on edge of the species distribution in northeastern country.
It is believed that the area is the most unique habitat for the cheetahs in Iran where is mainly composed of plain and hilly terrains without rocky rolling mountains which is quite in contrast to the other cheetahs reserves in the country. As the only medium sized antelope, an existing small population of just a few hundred Goitered gazelle is expected to provide the main proportion of the cheetah
July 2007- Do you plan to embark on a long sailing trip? Put the Asiatic cheetah emblem on your sails! Will you participate in a marathon? Put the emblem on your shirt! Will you climb a high mountain? Put a flag with the emblem on the mountain top! Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) invite you to organize an Iranian cheetah activity and provide photographs and footage of the event. Any activity is possible, even a simple interview with an Iranian cheetah fan explaining why this animal is special! Your photos and footage will be used for publication in local Iranian newspapers and for broadcasts on local Iranian television. Seeing that people in far-away places care about the Iranian cheetah will make a big impression on Iranian villagers in the cheetah
April 2007- According to the latest surveys, it is estimated that at least 70 to 100 Iranian cheetahs occur throughout the country. As a result of continuous field surveys, tracking, direct observations, gathering local people
May 2007- The first phase of educational project for local students in Bafq Protected Area aiming at increasing awareness about the critically endangered Iranian cheetah has been successfully finished. Started since mid 2006 in 2 phases, the cheetah educational project has been focusing on education of senior high school students about the cheetah and other large carnivores of the area.
As the first step, a network of local stakeholders has been formed in order to collaborate in implementation of educational activities in 2 main fields, students and herders. The students are now able to identify the cheetah as well as other large carnivores, including leopard, wolf and hyena and have learned about the animals’ life and status. As a result of general education for the students, an elite group of 50 enthusiastic students are now chosen by themselves to learn more practically in the second year about the cheetah, visiting the cheetah habitat and helping to share the cheetah knowledge with the other local people.
As another main target group, the herders who possess the highest encounter with the cheetah which sometimes lead to killing the animal are going to be educated about the cheetah. According to surveys done in the area, Bafq Protected Area is one of few areas out of several Iranian cheetah habitats where the cheetahs are surely in direct conflict with livestock and there are a considerable amount of cheetah attacks on domestic animals. On the other hand, most of the livestock killings occur in nighttime darkness when the killer in charge is hardly seen by the herders and since the cheetah is a famous animal among the local people at the moment, most of the kills are related to the animal by the local herders. Accordingly, immediate educational practices are needed to increase the awareness about the cheetah and how to identify the cheetah and other large carnivores in order to prevent eradication of the critically endangered cheetahs.
Located in central province of Yazd, Bafq Protected Area has an area of more than 150,000 hectares with an estimated population of 15 cheetahs. On the other hand, the area has had the highest human-induced mortality during the past decade, at least 1.5 animals per year, mainly due to lack of awareness about the cheetah and the fear of being an enemy to the human and its properties. Aiming at removing incorrect believes about the cheetah, the Bafq Cheetah Educational Project hopes to find sustainable ways to save the flagship creature from extinction with participation of local people.