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Asiatic Cheetah
Asiatic Cheetah

Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus venaticus
Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae

 

General Information

Cheetah is the fastest terrestrial animal in the world; it can reach a speed of over 100kph. The cheetah’s slender, long-legged body is built for speed. It can accelerate from zero to 40 mph in three strides and to full speed of 70 mph in seconds. As the cheetah runs, only one foot at a time touches the ground. There are two points, in its 20 to 25 foot (7-8 meters) stride when no feet touch the ground, as they are fully extended and then totally doubled up. Nearing full speed, the cheetah is running at about 3 strides per second. The cheetah’s respiratory rate climbs from 60 to 150 breaths per minute during a high-speed chase and can run only 400 to 600 yards before it is exhausted; at this time it is extremely vulnerable to other predators, which may not only steal its prey, but attack it as well.
The cheetah differs in many respects from other cats. Apart from its non-retractile claws, it has very long slender legs and does not climb. Its pelt has solid black spots on a buff to slightly tawny body but its physique is distinct from all cats. They can also be distinguished from other big cats by their smaller size, spotted coats, small heads and ears Iranian (Asiatic) Cheetah has a smaller head than their African cousins. Their legs are shorter, their coat thicker and their neck is more powerful.and distinctive “tear stripes” that stretch from the corner of the eye to the side of the nose. There are no spots on its white belly, and the tail has spots that merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. Male cheetahs are slightly larger than females and have a slightly bigger head, but it is difficult to tell males and females apart by appearance alone. Since cheetahs rely on sight for hunting, they are diurnal: more active in the day than night. In warm weather, they move around mostly during the early morning and late in the afternoon when the temperatures are cooler.

 

Diet

In Africa Cheetahs eat mainly gazelles, wildebeest calves, impalas and smaller hoofed animals. In Iran it hunts gazelle, wild sheep, ibex and occasionally small game such as hares.

 

Habitat

The cheetah is generally considered to be an animal of open country and grass lands. This impression is probably due to the ease of sighting the cheetah in the shorter grass. However, cheetahs use a wider variety of habitats, and are found often in dense vegetation and even mountainous terrain. Found in drier steppic regions of Iran, It prefers to live in dry, semi-desert areas with less vegetation.

 

Distribution in Iran

In most regions of the eastern half of the country until a generation ago, it is now restricted to a few areas in northeast & east central Iran. It is in Semnan,Yazd and North Khorasan province.

 

Distribution in the world

Historically Asiatic cheetahs were found throughout Middle East and Asia to India. Now Asiatic cheetah has been extinct across its entire Asiatic range, except for a small and critically endangered population (50-100 individuals) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Conservation

Threats:
Overhunting of cheetah prey. At the start of the Iranian Revolution in 1978/1979, all regulations protecting cheetah ranges and animals living within these areas were disbanded. Unregulated hunting of cheetahs’ natural prey during this period drastically decreased cheetah numbers. Although hunting is now regulated, illegal poaching of cheetah prey continues to this day.
Habitat degradation. Overgrazing and severe droughts resulting from natural and human induced changes have reduced the habitat available to wild antelope species and to cheetahs. Also, in Iran, herders and their livestock are legally permitted access to most protected areas and some agriculture is permitted in protected areas, placing the cheetah and its prey in direct competition with people.
Direct poaching. Herders hunt cheetahs for the perceived or real threats they pose to livestock, although cheetahs are known to create fewer problems for livestock owners than many other large carnivores. Occasionally poachers illegally capture cheetah cubs to be sold as pets.

Conservation status: It is in critical danger of becoming extinct, unless stronger protective measures are adopted by the Department of Environment. The last wild Asiatic Cheetahs in Iran are now thought to number between 70-110 individuals, all occupying the remote and arid central plateau. Iran considers their Cheetah 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 Program to create a comprehensive conservation program.

Conservation Measures: Conservation of this illusive cat, which has been listed as critically endangered (CR) by IUCN Red List from 1996 started since 2001 and under the name of Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah, Its Natural Habitat, and Associated Biota Project (CACP). This international project that has been funded by UNDP and implemented by Department of Environment of Iran was to quantify and address the threats in major cheetah habitats of the country. Many different projects implemented by different groups of conservationists from CACP, Small Grant Programme/GEF/UNDP and Iranian NGOs.
Based on years of experiment and activity of the PWHF experts on 2013 PWHF has nominated itself to be one of the official parties of CACP on its future path. Now we are the first and only Iranian NGO who has ever signed such document in wildlife conservation. PWHF will be contributing 100.000$ in 3 years (cash and in-kind) to help the global conservation trend of Asiatic Cheetah more than before.

Moreover, along with this collaboration with CACP, UNDP, DoE and WCS and our Iranian NGO colleagues, there are listed projects we have to save the Asiatic Cheetahs:
Conservation of Asiatic Cheetahs in Touran Biosphere Reserve, Semnan Province
– Education (schools, theatre ICS)
– Awareness raising for public

– Publications

 

Human Interaction

The cheetah’s long association with humans dates back to the Sumerians, about 3,000 BC, where a leashed cheetah, with a hood on its head, is depicted on an official seal. Many statues and paintings of cheetahs have been found in royal tombs, indicated that the cheetah rivaled dogs in popularity as hunting companions. The best records of cheetahs having been kept by royalty, from Europe to China, are from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Hunting with cheetahs was not to obtain food, which royalty did not need, but for the challenge of sport. Many emperors kept hundreds of cheetahs, at any given time, in their stables. All of the cheetahs kept as “hunting leopards” were taken from the wild. Because of this continuous drain on the world populations, the numbers of cheetahs declined throughout Asia. In the early 1900’s, India and Iran began to import cheetahs from Africa for hunting purposes.

 

Critical species of Iran

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