Iran is facing the imminent extinction of several endemic flora and fauna species, including the iconic species, the Asiatic cheetah. Following the extinction of the Asiatic lion and the Caspian tiger, the Asiatic cheetah and the Persian leopard are the only remaining species of large cats in Iran.
In historic times, the Asiatic cheetah was widespread across the Indian subcontinent and Central and South-West Asia including Iran. However, since that time, as a result of poaching and the consequences of overgrazing, the cheetah population has continuously declined. Currently the population is estimated to number only 50 – all limited to pockets in the arid regions of central Iran.
In a move designed to save these emblematic cats, the Government of Iran – together with UNDP and a number of concerned national and international NGOs started the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah (CACP) project back in 2001. Phase I of the project was co-funded by the Global Environment Facility and was implemented from 2001 to 2008. Phase II implementation began in the summer of 2010.
On 3 November, an extension of Phase II was signed into action. The project is a joint partnership between Iran’s Department of Environment (DoE) and UNDP. It aims to continue research, train game guards and expand and upgrade protected areas.
The Addendum was signed by Vice-President and Head of DoE, Ms. Masoumeh Ebtekar, and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary Lewis.
The extended phase II (November 2013 – December 2016) will identify feasible livelihood options that could achieve a higher level of integration of local communities as active and long-term partners in protected area (PA) management.
It will generate representative local enterprises with access to capital and markets. Systematic capacity development will target DoE provincial staffers as well as the main beneficiaries of wildlife and ecosystem conservation – the local communities – to collaborate in conservation efforts.
The private sector will also be assessed as a potential partner. The crux of implementation will therefore be to design and implement sustainable and biodiversity-friendly livelihood options for local communities, where possible bringing to bear the resources of the DoE and the private sector.
The project will continuously weigh and try to strike a balance between the conservation needs of the pilot PAs and sustainable poverty alleviation within PAs.
Speaking at the event Mr. Gary Lewis stated “The extension of this project will allow us to do important bodies of work that should minimize the threat to the cheetah. It is important to strengthen the hand of those who are responsible for protecting the cheetah – and I am speaking here about the game guards – one hundred and ten of them in all covering six million hectares, who do a very difficult job in very extreme weather conditions in very isolated areas, and I would like to use this opportunity to extend – perhaps our collective thanks and gratitude – for the work they do. It is also important to bring into people’s frame of reference the fact that we need to demarcate and protect specific areas for this emblematic species. I would like to take this opportunity – on behalf of the United Nations – to thank Madam Ebtekar for her work during her first term in this regard and we look forward to ensuring that Protected Areas are strengthened.”
In her remarks, Ms. Ebtekar thanked the partners who have been working with this project closely which in turn resulted in a successful project to date.
This new approach would be vital to secure the long term survival of endangered wildlife in pilot areas and the emergence of a modern conservation paradigm, based on which the interests of all stakeholders are fully considered and secured through the design of appropriate incentive mechanisms as well as commensurate conservation obligations”.
Among the attendees to this ceremony were officials of the DoE, including Dr. Keikhah, the Deputy for Natural Environment as well as the staff of the CACP along with the media.