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Cheetah Habitats in Iran

Asiatic cheetah habitat in Iran

The primary habitat of cheetah in Iran is the desert of Dasht-e- Kavir, which includes parts of Kerman, Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Tehran and Markazi provinces. Currently, this vast arid and dry desert area has become the last refuge for the Asiatic Cheetah. During the last two decades, the reported sightings of the Cheetahs in this vast area has dramatically been reduced. In particular, a few reports have been submitted of sightings in the Kavir National Park, Touran region, Naybandan Wildlife Refuge,Dar-e Anjir, Miandasht and Khosh Yeylagh. The spread of Cheetah sightings in recent years seems particularly less compared to the vast regions reported Cheetah activities between the years 1967-78, which included:

Tehran (Kavir National Park), Semnan (Touran, Khosh Yeylagh and vicinity), Khorasan (Miandasht and Tabas region), Yazd (Kalmand, Bafgh, Mehriz, Taft, and the city of Yazd), Isfehan (Mooteh And Kolah-Gahzie) Fars (Bahram-e Goor Wildlife Reserve), Kerman (Khabr-o-Rochoon region), Mazandaran (Golestan National Park), Hormozgan (around Hajiabad), and also other undocumented reports from Sistan (around

Hamoon-e Saberi) and Balouchistan (Bampour) and even Naft-Shahr in Kermanshah province.(Jowkar, 1999)

Nowadays, the Wildlife Refuge of Naybandan-Tabas, with an area of 1,500,000 ha, is one of the few places the cheetah can find shelter from adverse elements. The national park of Khartoran in the Semnan province has also been supporting a dwindling cheetah population over the years and is still one of the main sites for the project. Dar-e Angir and Bafkh in the province of Yazd and the National Kavir Park in Tehran Province are three other locations where the cheetah has been spotted.

Threats

The survival of Asiatic Cheetah faces a series of threats in Iran. Two main reasons account for the cheetah’s degeneration. The first is habitat disturbance and degradation, including desertification in large parts of the country. National Parks and other protected areas have been hard-hit, with the maximum destruction occurring between 1978 and 1990. The second is decline in prey.

 

 

Habitat degradation: spreading agriculture, industries, human settlements, mining and infrastructures has altered the majority of the natural habitat of the I.R. of Iran. Increasing numbers of livestock, introduced with no consideration for the capacity of the range and the season, has also been important in degrading pasture and lowering densities of ungulates, which are the principal prey of cheetahs. Almost all-rural people resident within the habitat of the Asiatic cheetah have goats, sheep and camels. This has been a hindrance to conservation of wildlife for quite some time, but today livestock grazing has become a widespread commercial venture, and overgrazing, including within protected areas, is common (with recurrence to commercial feeding in the dry season). Desertification has been sweeping much of the region where cheetahs are found, turning large areas into degraded environments of little or no economic or wildlife value. In such conditions, protected areas become a most obvious choice for the grazers. Today, the areas inhabited by the cheetah are fragmented and the main ones left in the I.R. of Iran, which still support wildlife. Much of these areas is between 100-600 meters in altitude and characterized by ranges of low hills with scant vegetation. The woodlands are mostly gone; the rivers are dry, except after heavy rain, and very few wild sheep, goats, asses, gazelles and cheetahs remain.

Non-habitat-related threats: Direct killing of wildlife in the I.R. of Iran paralleled the increasing abundance of firearms and the use of vehicles for hunting. Most poachers are not aware of the importance of the cheetah and its prey in the ecological system, and illegal hunting appears only a minor offence to them. In addition to illegal killing, nearly one million hunting licenses are issued yearly, with an annual quota of 300 bullets provided by the State. To this should be added the commercial exploitation of certain species, e.g. gazelles, leopards, falcons, bustards, partridges, waterfowl and crocodiles, which are all too often over-harvested from the wild. Given the small number of animals that survive, poaching is a very serious threat facing the cheetah (despite the fact that poaching is banned under current laws). In each population there may be only 1-15 animals. In light of the uncertain sex ratio, poaching of any single cat could easily undermine the long-term survival of the entire population in the I.R. of Iran. Unfortunately, control of poaching is difficult; for instance, the cheetah area is rich in commercially and industrially important minerals, which are being exploited by the Ministry of Industry & Mines. Mining itself is not a direct threat, but the construction of road networks makes cheetah areas accessible to people, including poachers.

 

Areas

1. Kavir National Park (NP)
Semnan Province 400,000 hectares 4 game posts Cheetah population: approx. 4-6 Kavir National Park is located only 50 km southwest of Tehran and is a biosphere reserve. Once called Little Africa, this area has a rich biome. The game species are gazelle dorcas and goitered gazelle, wild sheep, wild goat, hyena, leopard, wolf, cheetah and also rare species of small felids, such as sand cat and caracal.

2. Kharturan National Park, Wild Life Refuge, and Biosphere Reserve
Semnan Province 1,400,000 hectares 5 game posts Cheetah population: approx. 10-14 This area is a biosphere reserve and one of the most important and invaluable areas in Iran under protection of DoE. It houses a collection of almost all the famous Iranian desert game species such as gazelle dorcas and goitered gazelle, wild sheep, wild goat, hyena, leopard, wolf, cheetah and also one of two last remaining refuges for the rare Asiatic wild ass, or onager. Estimates put the number of species in this National Park to be around 250-300 heads.

3. Naybandan Wildlife Refuge (WR)
Northeastern Yazd Province 1,500,000 hectares 4 game posts Cheetah population: approx. 12-15 Other game species: gazelle dorcas, wild sheep, wild goat, hare, hyena, leopard, and wolf
4. Bafq Protected Area (PA)
Yazd Province 150,000 hectares 2 game posts Cheetah population: approx. 4-6 Bafq is located 100 km east of Yazd with an extreme dry climate. Its game species are goitered gazelle, wild sheep, wild goat, hyena, leopard, and wolf

5. Dar-e Anjir Wild Life Refuge (WR)
Yazd Province 150,000 hectares 1 game post Cheetah population: approx. 3-5 The area has a fragile biome. Game species are gazelle dorcas, wild sheep, wild goat, fox, hyena, and leopard
 

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