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Iran: Asiatic cheetah population in 'critical condition' 

A female Asiatic Cheetah in Tehran on 10 October 2017 [ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images]
A female Asiatic cheetah in Tehran on 10 October 2017 [ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images]

Iran's Asiatic cheetah population remains in a critical condition, according to a report yesterday in Tehran Times. Considered to be among the rarest big cats in the world at the subspecies level, they were once found across West Asia and India. Now there are said to be fewer than 50 left in Iran, based on data from 2017.

Morteza Pourmirzaei, managing director of the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), has called on the Department of the Environment to take action to protect the cheetahs. He referred to the existence of sixteen cheetahs concentrated in Iran's northern Semnan province.

"A species with a population of less than 100 cannot maintain its health in the long run, while with a population of less than 50, it will not be able to maintain its genetic diversity in the long run, so the species is in a critical condition," warned Pourmirzaei. "At present, each individual cheetah is important, but a small increase in the number of such species alone, although important, does not make much difference in terms of the cheetah's extinction."

READ: Turkey uses animal camera traps to identify illegal hunters

Camera traps in notable cheetah breeding habitats such as the Turan and Miandasht wildlife reserves have also proved that the situation is critical. Furthermore, for almost a decade, there has not been any evidence of female cheetah presence in the southern habitats, which include Yazd, Kerman, South Khorasan and Isfahan.

Roads intersecting cheetahs' natural habitats are believed to be among the main threats for the species, with road kills responsible for most of the recorded fatalities. Guard dogs and stray dogs, drought, decreasing population of the prey species and loss of habitat are also factors that have led to the shrinking cheetah population in the country. Iran and neighbouring countries have already lost the Asiatic Lion and Caspian Tiger to extinction.

Last month, ICS reported that camera traps revealed the existence of a new cheetah family of three consisting of a mother and two cubs at several locations in Turan National Park. The recordings were part of the Annual Asiatic Cheetah Population Monitoring Programme first launched in 2012. This year's project which will continue until mid-autumn.

READ: Saudi Arabia arrests cheetah smugglers

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