The destiny of the Asiatic Cheetah lies in the hands of each and every one of usAug 31, 2015
By: Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative
I believe that the five main environmental threats we face in Iran are water shortage, land degradation, unsustainable energy use, air and water pollution and biodiversity loss.
Today – on National Cheetah Day – I want to focus on biodiversity loss.
We share this planet with our animal cousins and we destroy them at our own peril. The result, here in Iran, is biodiversity loss and dramatic species decline.
All across the world, conservation is often at odds with economically-profitable activities. In Iran – as in other countries – short-term development gains have often trumped longer term environmental concerns. Alongside these, existing environmental laws are often at loggerheads with constructions or mining projects.
If human greed wins, we all know the result. The once-famous Mazandaran Tiger and the Persian Lion can only be glimpsed in the windswept statues or faded photographs that bear their images. All have been killed or forced into extinction. They are gone forever.
But, we need to learn from our mistakes and realize that we – each and every one of us – has the power to reverse the destiny of other endangered species.
As you may know, not so long ago the Asiatic Cheetah, roamed across a vast of stretch of land from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the banks of Ganges River. Today, a small part of the Iranian plateau has become the last surviving habitat for this endangered species.
Much of what the Iran’s authorities, many dedicated NGOs, ordinary Iranians and the United Nations all do together to support this emblematic species has occurred over the past 10 years under a project entitled the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP). This is a long-standing initiative between Iran’s Department of Environment, United Nations Development Programme and a number of committed national and international partners.
The solutions involve (1) getting local communities involved in protecting the Asiatic cheetahs with economic incentives, (2) supporting our Game Guards, (3) solidly maintaining the Protected Areas and (4) keeping the research going.
It is true that the pressures of modernization, the encroachment of humans, roads and settlements, plus the lethal shooting – by poachers – of both the Asiatic Cheetah and their prey, have all caused the number of these emblematic creatures to dwindle to fewer than 100. But – as we are witnessing through the project, really never too late to reverse these numbers.
As a result of the dedication of those involved with the project, today, we believe that the decline in the number of these beautiful animals may have stopped. Now their numbers may be on the increase once again.
The main reason for this recovery is that we – as humans – realized that there is a problem. The United Nations is extremely pleased and happy about the level of visibility the leadership of this country is giving to environmental challenges, and as I have said many times before, knowing about the problem is the first step in solving it.
We – the government, the national and international partners, the local communites and the Game Guards – are now united to overcome this challenge and reverse the destiny of the Asiatic Cheetah.
I strongly believe that it is not too late to save the Asiatic Cheetah, whose only remaining natural habitat is here in Iran.
The destiny of this unique species lies in the hands of each and every one of us.