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”.
Touran Biosphere Reserve
After recording a family of three, including a mother and two cubs, earlier this summer, cameras installed in Touran National Park (Part of Touran Biosphere Reserve) captured another family of three in the early fall. The mother of this new family is known as “Harb“, who was able to raise her three cubs last year. The cubs separated from this eight-year-old mother when they became adults, and Harb was able to give birth to two cubs this year as well. Cubs appear to be healthy in the pictures. All the captured images are the result of cooperation between the Iranian Cheetah Society and the Department of Environment of Semnan Province.
The record of two families of Asiatic Cheetah in Touran raises the hope of preserving the few remaining populations of this valuable species.
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”]
Recently, camera traps recorded a family of three consisting of a mother and two cubs at several points in Turan National Park. The family was spotted by rangers three months ago, and new photos show the well-being of both cubs during this time. The mother of these cubs is named “Mother of Talkhab”*, a powerful cheetah who successfully raised three of her cubs in recent years. It should be noted that camera traps have also recorded other cheetahs during this period, and the result of their identification will be announced later.
Camera traps recorded these promising images in the Annual Asiatic Cheetah Population Monitoring Program. This year, we simultaneously assess the status of the Asiatic Cheetah population in Turan Biosphere Reserve and Miandasht Wildlife Refuge. This study will continue until mid-autumn this year. We hope to identify more families in the area by then.
The year 2021 is a significant year for monitoring the situation of the Asiatic Cheetah in Iran. Touran Biosphere Reserve is already known as the only habitat for breeding Cheetah habitat in Iran. Although there have not been recorded any cheetah in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge since 2019, there is evidence of moving cheetahs from Touran toward adjacent habitat. Therefore, one of the most important actions includes recording whatever is happening in the present situation of the cheetah in Iran then take immediate and proposed steps accordingly.
Last year, besides monitoring Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, camera traps were installed in some areas of Touran Biosphere Reserves. According to the significant role of Touran in the free-ranging cheetah’s fate in the habitat, installing camera traps will be done more widespread this year. The monitoring will also be done in Miandasht to avoid ignoring the study of the second cheetah’s active habitat and record the probable return of the cheetah to the area.
The installation of camera traps has been begun in June 2021 and will continue according to the priorities area. The ICS team does all these processes, including installation and checking in cooperation with the area’s professional rangers and provincial administrations. The results of this project will be published accordingly.
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.
Miandasht Wildlife Refuge and Touran Biosphere Reserve were the only remaining reproductive Asiatic Cheetah habitats in Iran.
Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, with 84 thousand hectares, was one of the first areas that the Iranian Cheetah Society started working on for conserving the cheetah population. However, it’s been two years since there have been any records of cheetah reproduction there.
Unlike Miandasht, Touran Biosphere Reserve with 1.5 million hectares is the only remaining area with records of cheetah reproduction nowadays, so it is crucial for conserving the only Asiatic Cheetah habitat in the world.
Therefore, the Iranian Cheetah Society started their new project in September of 2020 to include Touran beside Miandasht in the surveys and camera trap to find new individuals. However, we couldn’t do the camera trappings in Touran ourselves because of the official technicalities, so we only gave our council and taught the rangers how to use and install the camera traps.
In both areas, camera traps worked for four months until the start of 2021 that livestock moved to the areas’ edges. So, we had to remove and relocate them near the core.
Unfortunately, the results don’t show any cheetah recorded in Miandasht, which is very concerning, but there have been some cheetah records in Touran, which we are now analyzing and identifying.
Here you can see some of the photos that have been captured by the camera traps in Touran. Hope you will enjoy them.
The camera traps installed at the North Khorasan Province, Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, have been collected after four months of operating in September 2020. Our team established cameras in collaboration with North Khorasan’s DOE and the refuge’s rangers. They reconfirm the high biodiversity of the region, same as in recent years. This biodiversity owes to the rangers’ conservation and patrolling constantly.
Unfortunately, any image of the Asiatic Cheetah was not recorded during this period. The entry of livestock out of The Zamen Aho National Park borders at the beginning of Winter makes it impossible to use camera traps in the refuge. Therefore, to make sure, more cameras installed in the Zamen Aho National Park’s important zones, which is located in the middle of the refuge, to record any possible entrance of the cheetahs in the area and the national park.
Hopefully, the images of cheetah cubs have been recorded in The Turan’s biosphere reserve during the past few months. Also, several reports of seeing cheetahs at the Turan – Miandasht corridor raises our hopes of this unique species’ existence in the Miandasht.
To make these hope real, we have to take serious conservation steps to improve habitats’ conditions to enter cheetahs and save them. Removing feral and hybrid dogs, equipping rangers, making the troughs inaccessible for domestic animals, etc., needs urgent action. Besides other conserving efforts, all these mentioned steps could be possible and achievable with Department of Environment administrations’ collaboration, non-governmental organizations.
Our cameras recorded the following picture during this year in Miadasht Wildlife Refuge. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
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
Despite having relatively good precipitation during the past two years, human-made water troughs in desertic areas remain in need of maintenance and refills in the hot season. This could prevent rangers from patrolling the reserve, but with the help of caring people, the problem could be solved.
This year with the sponsorship of the “Ahmad Tea” company, Mr. Ali Rajabi has been given the responsibility of providing water and helping other rangers of the Touran Biosphere Reserve.
Management of water resources is essential for conserving Asiatic Cheetahs. The Iranian Cheetah Society, and its sponsors, alongside wildlife lovers, will not sit back from the chances of saving the species.