he Cheetah Project is about reversing the decline of the endangered Asiatic Cheetah and saving it from extinction. It is now estimated that fewer than 100 Asiatic Cheetahs are living in the wild in Iran. The numbers appear to be rising in the northern habitats of Miandasht and Touran. It is believed that this is attributable, in part, to the vigilance and the enhanced morale of the game guards who try to protect the animals from poachers.
Phase I of the project was co-funded by the Global Environment Facility between 2001 and 2008.
Phase II implementation commenced in 2009. It aims to assist the Department of the Environment to fulfill its commitments to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity under Iran’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PA). Pilot sites have been selected in cheetah habitats. The ultimate goal is to achieve sustainability of Protected Areas and the Asiatic Cheetah population within them. The project builds on the achievements of the CACP Phase I by strengthening the current Protected Area management in selected cheetah habitats.
Key achievements to date:
- Protection of cheetahs and game guards: In 2013-2014, enhanced protection manifested in a recorded increase in the prey population by 17% with poaching violations decreasing by 27% in cheetah habitats. This performance was made possible through improved training and life insurance provided to the game guards and awareness raising provided to local communities.
- Community reserve: An innovative community reserve is being piloted across 130,000 hectares in the Yazd province.
- Purchase of traditional rights: There are ongoing efforts to protect the cheetahs in the face of increased grazing and water rights claims within the Protected Areas. Recently, an agreement was reached with herders to evacuate a core zone within the Touran National Park and relocate to pastures on the periphery of the PA based on a package of incentives.
- Research: Funded by insurance pay-outs, the cause of death of any cheetah is investigated and researched and measures to prevent future casualties are identified.
- National symbol: Awareness raising has turned the Asiatic Cheetah into a national symbol – including its images being emblazoned on the Meraj airline fleet and the national football team.