Agents of the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) arrested Hooman Jokar, the treasurer and the director of the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), and seven other environmentalists in February.
Marking International Cheetah Day on December 4, the Iranian Department of Environment announced that it would soon appoint a new director to the CACP. The department also unveiled the “Iranian Feliformia Project” which aims to save the cat-like carnivorans from extinction.
“We plan to select a new director for the CACP soon, and urge all qualified individuals to apply for the position,” Majid Kharrazian Moghaddam, the director of the Department of Environment’s Fish and Wildlife Offices, said. “The ‘Iranian Feliformia Project,’ which includes a plan to save the Asian Cheetah, will take five years to complete and will cost around $36 million. We’ve completed the preliminary work and are just waiting for the funding to be approved. The third phase of the international project to save the Asian cheetah is nearing completion.”
A recent plan by the wildlife conservationists in Tehran’s Pardisan Park to breed cheetahs in captivity had failed. The pair named Koushaki and Delbar had not responded well to their surroundings. Mr. Moghaddam explained: “Delbar is unable to conceive naturally. So, in her case, we’ll have to use either artificial insemination or veterinary laparoscopy (minimally invasive surgery for Infertility) or a surrogate womb.”
Wildlife conservationists have counted and tagged 50 cheetahs since 2014, according to Rajabali Karegar, the deputy director of the CACP. Mr. Karegar has dismissed reports that put the figure at between 90 to 120, calling them inaccurate and unscientific.
“We don’t know if there are more than 46 cheetahs, but some have given birth to new cubs and others have died,” Karegar noted. “Most cheetahs live in the provinces of Semnan, Yazd, Esfahan, Kerman, and Khorasan. Our records show that three cheetahs have died so far this year in Kerman, Khorasan, and Semnan. There may be other deaths that we are not aware of or haven’t recorded yet. Cheetahs migrate and relocate their territories which make them somewhat vulnerable.”
The Iranian government has allocated a total of six million hectares to 10 cheetah reserves in six provinces. Cheetahs’ migratory corridor, however, covers an area of 12 million hectares. According to Karegar, 64 percent of the cheetahs in Iran live outside the ten registered sanctuaries.
“Road accidents are the main cause of death of cheetahs in Iran. Most recorded fatalities occur on the road between Shahrud and Sabzevar which stretches for 12 kilometers. Additionally, seven cheetahs have been injured in this area,” Karegar said. “Only one-third of the 24-kilometer corridor which needs protection is currently fenced.”
Karegar said: “We keep a record of injured cheetahs on our website. Conservationists have been unable to breed cheetahs in captivity in Tehran’s Pardisan Park. No zoo in the world has been able to accomplish that to date.”
Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi