Only found in Iran, the severely endangered Asiatic cheetah (also known as the Persian cheetah) is a subspecies of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). One of the rarest and most endangered big cats in the world as of 2021, it is thought that there would only be less than 50 individuals left in the wild.
The Asiatic cheetah resembles its African relative in appearance, but differs in that it has somewhat shorter legs and a paler coat, which is often light yellow to brown in color with black markings. Its body is long and lean, with a deep chest and thin waist, and it is aerodynamically shaped for speed. In order to decrease glare and enhance its eyesight when hunting, the cheetah has characteristic tear markings that extend from the inner corner of each eye down to its lips.
Habitat and Range:
The Asiatic cheetah was once widespread throughout the Middle East, from India to Arabia, but habitat degradation and poaching have significantly limited its range. Asiatic cheetahs are now exclusively found in Iran, where they are mostly located in the country’s central plateau, particularly the Kavir Desert and the Bafq Protected Area.
The main danger to the Asiatic cheetah’s existence is habitat loss and fragmentation brought on by human activities like farming, mining, and oil prospecting. As a result, natural prey species like the goitered gazelle have disappeared, and the cheetahs have been forced to move into human-populated regions where they are frequently shot at or taken captive by poachers.
Hunting for recreation and traditional medicine poses a serious danger to Asiatic cheetahs. Since there is no scientific proof to support their usefulness, cheetah skin and bones are highly prized in traditional medicine and are used to treat a number of diseases. The cheetah is also a well-liked target for hunters, who frequently kill the animals for pleasure or to defend cattle due to their speed and agility.
Since the 1970s, there have been continual efforts to protect the Asiatic cheetah, but owing to political unpredictability, economic difficulties, and a lack of public awareness, progress has been gradual. Nonetheless, conservation initiatives have recently regained popularity both domestically and abroad.
The creation of protected areas, such as the Bafq Protected Area, which was established particularly to conserve the cheetah’s habitat, has been one of the primary conservation initiatives for the Asiatic cheetah. Through educational initiatives, community outreach, and media campaigns, attempts have also been undertaken to raise public awareness of the significance of preserving the cheetah.
Using captive breeding operations to increase the number of Asiatic cheetahs in captivity with the ultimate objective of releasing them into the wild has been another crucial conservation technique. Because to the problems of cheetah breeding in captivity and the little genetic variety of the surviving wild population, this has been a difficult endeavor.
Only found in Iran, the Asiatic cheetah is a severely endangered subspecies of the cheetah. Due to habitat degradation, poaching, and other human activities, its population has drastically decreased in recent years, and as of 2021, it is predicted that less than 50 individuals will still be found in the wild. The Asiatic cheetah has been subject to conservation efforts for many years, but owing to several obstacles, progress has been gradual. Nonetheless, there is fresh optimism that the Asiatic cheetah may be spared from extinction with more awareness and international cooperation.