Taking steps towards reversing the destiny of the Asiatic Cheetah

Aug 30, 2016

  Iran is the last habitat of the Asiatic Cheetah. Photo Credit: Masoud Mokhtari

Imagine a vast stretch of land from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the banks of the Ganges River filled with roaming Asiatic Cheetahs. 

Now snap back to reality, because those days are long gone. 

Today, a small part of the Iranian plateau has become the last surviving habitat for the endangered Asiatic Cheetah.

30 August marks national Asiatic Cheetah Day in Iran – a day to raise awareness about this endangered species and share ideas on how to protect it from going extinct.

Across the planet, we are increasingly coming to recognize how much damage we are doing to our habitats – and to the many species which have co-existed with us since the dawn of time.  

According to the UNDP Resident Representative in Iran, Gary Lewis “biodiversity loss is one of Iran’s top five main environmental challenges”.

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.

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.

  August 30 marks national Asiatic Cheetah Day in Iran. Photo Credit: Masoud Mokhtari

The solutions involve:

  1. getting local communities involved in protecting the endangered,
  2. supporting our Game Guards,
  3. solidly maintaining the Protected Areas and
  4. keeping the research going.

A great example of this combination of efforts can be seen in a joint project between the Department of Environment, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a number of international and national partners -  the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project.

Due to 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, still, it is not too late to save our Asiatic Cheetah.

In fact, we believe that the decline in the number of these beautiful animals may have stopped and now we are gathering information to see if their numbers may be on the increase once again.

Part of the reason for the turnaround is because we are all becoming aware of the need to save our Asiatic Cheetahs.

Raising awareness is key in overcoming any challenge.  Alongside this we should join forces with the Game Guards and learn from them to be protectors and preservers of our environment and the beautiful species that share this planet with us. 

If we do this, we can reverse the destiny of many endangered species in Iran and be a part of a global movement to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land which calls on us to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

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