Finding the Last Cheetahs of Iran

by Dr. Luke Hunter, President, Panthera - October 25th, 2012

This week, National Geographic magazine published extraordinary new images of wild Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. Shown cresting a barren, mountainous ridge devoid of green, Iran’s cheetahs could not be any more distant- geographically and ecologically- from their African counterparts pictured in the same article navigating tourist traffic-jams on Kenyan grasslands. And unlike Kenya’s spectacularly photogenic cheetahs, Iranian cats are virtually invisible. Intensely shy, scattered like grains of sand over Iran’s vast central plateau, and hovering on the edge of extinction, they are essentially impossible to see.

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Iranian Cheetah Project

The Asiatic cheetah once had a distribution that extended across the Middle East, Central Asia, north into southern Kazakhstan and southeast into India. Today, the cheetah has been extirpated from its entire Asiatic range, except for a small and critically endangered population in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Estimated at 200 animals in the 1970’s, there are now thought to be only 70-110 Asiatic cheetahs left in the wild, all occupying the arid, central plateau of Iran. The major threats facing the Asiatic cheetah include overhunting of cheetah prey, habitat degradation and direct poaching.

With cooperation from Panthera and local partners, the CACP sets out to protect the last remaining Iranian cheetahs, their prey base and the natural habitats of these species by mitigating the direct threats facing cheetahs and their prey; gathering ecological data on existing cheetah, other carnivore and prey populations; enhancing and empowering law enforcement officials to protect cheetahs and their prey, including seeking a reduction in the number of annual gun licenses issued in cheetah range; researching the ecology of cheetahs, other predators and their prey using camera traps and radio-collars; studying cheetah rangelands to determine the extent of competition for land between livestock and the cheetah’s wild ungulate prey; establishing environmental educational activities with local communities to improve attitudes towards cheetahs; and engaging with local communities, conservation organizations and government officials to collaboratively protect cheetah habitat.

Learn more about The Iranian Cheetah Project


An Asiatic cheetah passes in front of a camera trap, Iran

Three Asiatic cheetahs walk past a camera trap, Iran

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Iranian Cheetah Project Press and Publications