A Species Under Threat
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), the worlds fastest land animal, is also the least dangerous of big cats — there is no record of a wild cheetah ever killing a human — and they create fewer problems with livestock owners than do many other large carnivores. Even so, they are persecuted intensely in some areas for perceived problems or for the relatively minor problems they do create. Cheetahs are listed on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as “Vulnerable” across their range, and as "Critically Endangered" in North Africa and Asia.
Cheetahs once inhabited the whole African continent except for the Congo Basin rainforest. Today, they have vanished from over 77 percent of their historic range in Africa. They also once occupied Asia from the Arabian Peninsula to Eastern India but are now extinct in their entire Asian range except for a single, isolated population of perhaps 110 in the remote central plateau of Iran. Overall, cheetahs are extinct in 25 countries in which they formerly occupied; they are possibly extinct in a further 13 countries, and have not been sighted in the Burundi, Republic of Congo, Democratic, Nigeria and Rwanda in the last decade. Besides direct hunting, cheetah's are also threatened by habitat loss and fragementation, and lack of wild prey.
Over the last ten years, translocation and reintroduction of cheetahs has been occurring in over 38 reserves in South Africa, where they now number more than 265. However, most of these populations are very small and isolated from all other cheetah populations with very few prospects of connecting them. Lack of connectivity reduces genetic variation, which is also another threat for this species.
How We're Helping
Panthera has been engaged with multiple partners in working to conserve Asiatic cheetahs in Iran since 2006. Estimated at 200 animals in the 1970’s, the last wild Asiatic cheetahs are now thought to number between 70-110 individuals, all occupying the remote and arid central plateau of Iran. Iran considers their cheetah, which is on the verge of extinction, an important part of its natural and cultural heritage and it has now become a symbol of the country’s conservation efforts. Iran’s Department of the Environment (DOE) partnered with Panthera and various other groups including the Wildlife Conservation Society and the United Nations Development Programme to create a comprehensive conservation program called the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah, Its Natural Habitat, and Associated Biota in the I.R. of Iran (CACP).
Through CACP, Panthera and its partners are protecting the last remaining Iranian cheetahs, their prey base and their natural habitats by mitigating direct threats facing cheetahs and their prey; gathering ecological data on cheetahs, other carnivores and their prey populations; enhancing and empowering law enforcement officials to protect cheetahs and their prey; utilizing camera traps and radio-collars to collect critical data on the ecology of cheetahs; and working with local communities to improve attitudes towards cheetahs.
Click here to learn more about CACP, and read the most recent article : "Saving a Cat That Calls the Iranian Desert Its Home" about Panthera’s efforts and read how Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter, explains current threats facing the Asiatic cheetah, what Panthera is doing about it, and why these animals need to be saved.
“Saving the Asiatic cheetah is important for its own sake. It’s a fantastic animal; it’s been part of the Persian culture for 2,000 years and deserves to be so for 2,000 more.”
Dr. Luke Hunter, President, Panthera
|Iranian Cheetah Project | A Species Under Threat|