Asiatic cheetah was once dispersed in most parts of Asia from the Indian subcontinent to Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Iran to the Arabian Peninsula, but is currently on The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of animals on the verge of the extinction, and is unique to remote areas in the desert of Iran. Asiatic cheetah is among the few felines that get domesticated quickly. And from the past, they were used for hunting in these areas. And in literature, paintings, and many petroglyphs, there is a sing of this animal. Irantrawell in this article tries to introduce you to the lovely animal that has become the symbol of Iran today.
The Story of Asiatic Cheetah
Asiatic cheetahs live in open lands and grasslands, small plains, semi-desert regions, and in other areas where prey can be found. This means that all areas of Southwest Asia are a suitable place for this animal, and this caused their population to grow very large. But as human civilization developed, the territory of the cheetah became smaller. Because from the very beginning it was afraid of humans, and wherever human beings stepped in, the Asiatic cheetah left.
But human beings did not become content just by seizing the cheetah’s hunting ground, and when man found out that cheetahs can be used like dogs to hunt down deer, he tried to chain every cheetah he saw. This caused some of the past kings like Akbar Shah in India to have a herd made up of one thousand Asiatic cheetahs. And led to the creation of special places for keeping cheetahs and creation of jobs like cheetah keepers. The Fahadan neighborhood in Yazd was also known as the cheetah keepers’ neighborhood, and the nobles and businessmen who were interested in hunting used to live in this neighborhood.
But the problem of enslaving cheetahs was that, unlike dogs, their reproduction is very limited when they are restricted, and their lifetime is decreased. One of the reasons is that in Asiatic cheetahs, the female herself selects the male to mate with, and you cannot put two cheetahs in a cage and expect them to reproduce. This led to the disappearance of these large herds of cheetahs, and in the areas that were once the main haven for Asiatic cheetahs, no more cheetahs were found. The last sign from cheetah in India dates back to 1944, and by the 1970s, the Asiatic cheetah was distinct in all places of Asia except for Iran.
Asiatic Cheetah in Iran
Iran has many open plains that are located between the three major mountains of Alborz, Zagros and Hindu Kush, and the streams of snow melted in this mountain range flows into the central plain of Iran. This means the most ideal conditions for the living and growing of various species of animals, including Asiatic cheetahs, but these ideal conditions are severely threatened by the development of human civilization and interfering in the normal course of the environment. Flowing waters are used by dams, factories and cities, and wetlands disappeared bit by bit. The roads in the heart of desert ruined the untouched animal habitats, and the predators and herdsmen took the natural food of carnivores and herbivores for themselves. They found iron and stone mines, and the most untouched of places for their development, and as the desert grew by the drying out of field and plains, the wildlife was pushed to the margins.
But still, with all these hardships, Iran is the only habitat for the Asiatic cheetah. The most appealing carnivore of Iran, which has become the symbol of this country. Semnan and Yazd provinces are the main habitats of these animals, but their traces have been seen in provinces such as Tehran, Khorasan and Kerman, and this is indicative of the wide habitat of this lovely creature. There are only about one hundred Asiatic cheetahs left in the whole world. And the whole world is looking at Iran, since all of them are in Iran.
Asiatic Cheetah Rescue Program
The Asiatic cheetah protection project, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program and the Environmental Protection Agency, began in 2001. For research and protection work, five regions were selected, which were believed that 80 percent of Iran’s cheetahs were scattered there. Turan National Park, Desert National Park in Semnan Province, Bafgh Protected Area, and wildlife sanctuaries in Darre Anjir and Naibandan in Yazd province.
Because of the shortage of hunting for Asiatic cheetahs, the local people have been trained that if cheetahs attacked their sheep, they allow them to do what they want and do not resist. Asiatic cheetah is not like a wolf that will smother all the sheep and destroy them; the cheetah hunts only one lamb or sheep.
In the same program, the installation of the camera and even electronic collars was done to provide more accurate data and a better understanding of the life of this endangered animal.
After approving the cheetah design for the Iranian national soccer team, this desing was used in the Iranian soccer team’s costume at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the AFC Asian Cup 2015 as a symbol of Iran.