Iranian Cheetah Society
The Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) only survives in the wild in Iran. It is classed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. Its original range stretched from India to the Arabian Peninsula via Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Syria, but the degrading of its habitats, intensive hunting of its prey and conflicts with livestock breeders, leading to it being hunted, have resulted in a dramatic fall in numbers. There are now less than 100 Asiatic cheetahs in Iran, only half of them of breeding age.
Unlike their African cousins, Asiatic cheetahs have stopped hunting gazelles on the plains, now too scarce in certain areas, and subsist on ungulates living at altitude, such as mouflons and wild goats.
It is very hard to observe Asiatic cheetahs because of their very large home range, low numbers and shyness. The best way to observe them is to install photographic ‘traps’ that allow individuals to be identified, mainly by looking at the shape and position of the dark spots on their coat, unique to each individual and unchanging over time. In total, 80 photo-traps have been installed in reserves visited by cheetahs, regularly providing images on which researchers at the Iranian Cheetah Society base their work.
For 10 years this NGO has been working to conserve the 5 great carnivores that live in Iran (the Asiatic cheetah, leopard, wolf, bear and striped hyena) by reducing conflicts with local communities and running educational and awareness-building activities.
The Zoo de La Palmyre has contributed to its cheetah conservation program since 2011.
Photo credit: © Iranian Cheetah Society.