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Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah in Touran Biosphere Reserve
Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah in Touran Biosphere Reserve

 

Project Description

 

The Cheetah Conservation Project at Touran Biosphere Reserve is based on a specific set of activities, including field research, awareness raising, educational programs, and search for alternative forms of livelihood for locals and beneficiaries. It is based on the activities done by the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), ecological societies, Plan for the Land Society, and the Small Grants Programme (SGP) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) during the last ten years. The executive team met initially in June 2012 at the office of Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF). Since then it has made the protection and conservation of the Asiatic cheetah one its hallmark initiatives. There is an urgent need for education, continuous protection efforts, and social awareness. The Project is under direct supervision of CACP, the Department of Environment of Semnan Province (Semnan DoE), in partnerships with Touran National Park Authority. The longstanding experience of team members in Touran is an asset to conservation efforts.

Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, first Iranian NGO to figure in CACP’s Document

Steps Already Taken

The first step in for the conservation of the cheetah in TBR was to arrive at an estimate of the minimum population count. By June 6, 2013, 110 trap cameras have been planted in the area. Cheetahs have been captured in 18 photographs. Following spot analysis 5 individuals have been identified. This number represents the minimum population of this species in TBR. Other species such as Persian leopard, striped hyena, caracal, wild cats, sand cats, wolves, foxes, Blanford’s fox, and Asiatic wild ass were recorded by the cameras and analyzed. The executive team also identified common treats to TBR.

Ongoing Activities

The continued monitoring of cheetah population

The region where the cheetah has been seen will continue to be monitored. Trap camera placement and arrangement will also continue for several years, giving us more accurate population estimates for more efficient management initiatives.

Other animals of TBR

Census of ungulates as the cheetah preys

Cheetah prey reduction is one of the biggest treats to the cat in Iran. Wild sheep and goat and gazelle are the animal’s main preys in TBR. Semnan DoE performs prey census twice annually in summer and winter in order to estimate the herbivores population.. The executive team of the Project participated in the summer count in TBR in July 2013. This program intends to continue collaborating with the Office by bringing in the knowledge of Iranian and international specialists to arrive at better data.

Monitoring other important species
Population count of other species of the region, including mammals such as the Persian leopard, gray wolf, caracal, striped hyena, wildcat, sand cat, fox and wild ass, were partially conducted in the first phase of the Project and will continue to be conducted as part of its ongoing activities. Data on the population of the hyena, survey of the trend of the presence of Persian Leopards in the 1st phase of the Project, comparative study of carnivores, comparative study of desirability of the habitat in TBR for the Persian leopard, have all been incorporated in academic researches.

A first estimation on Striped Hyena’s population in Turan Biosphere Reserve (TBR)

Reduction of conflict between livestock and wildlife in TBR

Awareness raising of herders, shepherds, camel owners to reduce conflict
Herders, shepherds, camel owners in TBR are the main groups whose lifestyle conflicts with the livelihood of the cheetah. Their awareness of the delicate ecological balance and its effect on their own livelihood now and in the future is of utmost importance. Moreover, introducing and localizing the conflicts mitigation methods to the shepherds could lead to a decrease in the number os conflicts between wildlife and livestock. Awareness programs and consultation with locals and stakeholders are an integral part of conservation efforts of Semnan DoE jointly with PWHF.

Streamlining regulations on and management of livestock presence in TBR
Improving herding methods is one of the ways to reduce conflict between livestock and wildlife, and this is contingent upon improving regulations that can interfere with the livelihood of herders at the same time that it can help conservation efforts. New regulations that can reduce conflict and improve livelihood are on the table and the executive team is working closely with authorities at the Office and TBR authorities on these measures.

Future plans

Biological research
Additional to recent estimates of cheetah population, experts believe that radio telemetry of cheetahs will give them wider knowledge of patterns of behavior of the animal, which can in turn help with conservation efforts. This is especially true of the female species of the cheetah, which are harder to spot.

Evaluation of conflict between wildlife and livestock in TBR
With the recent statistics on cheetah mortality in Touran and the long-term presence of the livestock in the region a comprehensive study to access the level of competition and conflict between the livestock and wildlife seems necessary. In the present project, one of the next steps would be to gather baseline data and seek active consultation of TBR herders. Such studies will give us fundamental information on the use of natural resources such as watershed and rangeland, giving decision-makers and stakeholders tools to improve existing condition in TBR.

Social research

A conservation strategy will be incomplete without taking human factors into account. On the other hand, inferring with social structures without studying local conditions involved may prove counterproductive. Sociological studies need to reveal local population’s relationship with natural resources in Touran as well as motives for illegal hunting. Conducted in the shortest of times and without straining financial resources, these studies will enumerate outstanding factors involved in conservation efforts. It is our hope that with the help of TBR authorities, Semnan DoE, environmental and social specialists and experts of the province, the results of these studies can be used to address existing environmental challenges in TBR.

Participatory conservation

Partnership is vital to any conservation effort. The local population needs to be involved if efforts are to bear fruit. It is fortunate that the Project has succeeded in establishing an effective platform to involve a diverse group of locals in devising conservation strategies for the protection of TBR. To implement these strategies, officials in Semnan DoE and related provincial authorities need to supervise compliance of and conduct training programs for stakeholders. The Cheetah Conservation Project in TBR tries to establish an effective connection between local groups who are willing and have the ability to participate in the protection plan.

Alternative livelihood

Previous activities and studies conducted in particular at the village of Qale-bala by Plan for the Land and with financial support from SGP of UNDP has given us valuable information on how to suggest alternative forms of livelihood to local communities, including the introduction of ecotourism in the region. The Cheetah Conservation Project in TBR will continue its conservation efforts and planning alongside CACP in years to come.

 

Related News:

The National Asiatic Cheetah Day Festival in Turan Biosphere Reserve

A second attempt at estimating the cheetah population in Turan Biosphere Reserve

Observation of Four Asiatic Cheetah in Touran Biosphere Reserve

 PWHF representatives attend a meeting in Semnan with the head of Department of Environment

Rare observation of five Asiatic Cheetahs in the Touran Biosphere Reserve