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Iranian Cheetah Society: possible new partner for WLT

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19 November, 2013 - 14:16 -- World Land Trust
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Camera-trap image of an Asiatic Cheetah at night in Miandasht Wildlife Refuge.

In light of the news of today's bombings in Beirut we considered holding this news story. However, one of the gratifying things about working in conservation is that it is usually possible to work outside political conflicts. The people and organisations that World Land Trust works with have a mission to save and protect wildlife, and with this in mind we are publishing our story about co-operation on conserving threatened species in Iran.

Following a successful field trip to Iran by John Burton, Chief Executive of World Land Trust (WLT),  a conservation partnership with the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) is being discussed.

In early November John visited Touran, a reserve in north eastern Iran, where he met ICS representatives and discussed a possible partnership with WLT.

Covering more than 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares), Touran was designated a biosphere reserve in 1976, and the reserve is managed by Iran’s Department of the Environment.

Touran lies in Iran’s Dasht-e Kavir (Great Salt Desert), a vast arid area in the middle of the Iranian plateau, where hot temperatures and vaporisation leave a salt crust over the marshy terrain. With its vast open spaces, and few human settlements, central Iran is one of the few places left on earth where wildlife populations are relatively secure.

Caucasian Leopard

While in Iran John was particularly interested to hear about the status of the Caucasian Leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica). Iran is the stronghold for Caucasian Leopards and WLT is involved in conservation efforts to save the small population that survives in Armenia. In Touran John saw the remains of a fresh kill which, he was assured by his guides, was a result of a leopard. 

John also visited Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, where camera-traps are regularly capturing images of Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus lupus) and Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena).

On both reserves he also saw healthy populations of Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus), Urials (Ovis vignei) and Bezoar Goat (Capra aegagrus), which are all preyed on by big cats. “The status of wildlife in Iran is very encouraging,” said John after the trip, “and good numbers of prey species explain why Asiatic Cheetah and Caucasian Leopard are surviving in Iran.”

Founded in 2001, ICS is the oldest Iranian NGO still active in wildlife conservation. “The Iranian Cheetah Society is a vibrant organisation staffed by enthusiastic, young people carrying out excellent research. We are pleased to be discussing a partnership with a view to longterm cooperation,” said John.

Sharing a northern border with Armenia, Iran has a key role to play in the conservation of the Caucasian Leopard, an endangered leopard sub species, and the subject of a WLT special appeal. Caucasian Leopards range across the South Caucasus and Iran, and protecting this cross-border corridor is vital for the survival of the Caucasian Leopard in the wild.

John was in Iran with Marc Hoogeslag of IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN NL). Marc arranged the fact finding trip to evaluate the potential for a conservation project in partnership with ICS funded by IUCN NL.

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Submitted by Noushin Farsani on

I am very glad to hear of a partnership being considered between two highly important organisations. The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) has worked very hard under the recently lifted sanctions to save the Asiatic Cheetah.

I look forward to hearing of a partnership and many exciting campaigns with this.

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

This is just what WLT does so well. It takes an NGO with a bit of nerve and courage to try to forge new gains for wildlife around the world; it also takes some careful assessment and fine judgement calls to make good on any new partnerships. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I love the idea that we could establish new healthy relationships with the wildlife-loving people in Iran; where requested, help them with our experience and expertise, encourage and assist with financial resources where appropriate - AND equally importantly - learn from them what works and doesn't work in their neck of the woods. They may have all sorts of relevant knowledge and skills which we don't. Any which way, all of us could benefit.

We could help promote a wider appreciation of Iranian natural wealth both within Iran, and let them know how others around the globe hold their wildlife in a similar high esteem. Maybe, dare I suggest it, we may succeed where the political authorities have so lamentably failed, and improve international relations through a shared enthusiasm for wild habitats and their fauna and flora.

With cheetahs and other wildlife on the agenda - it's gotta be worth a try !

Submitted by Marc Hoogeslag on

I joined John Burton on this trip and what Dominic Belfield says is spot on! In Tehran we met the Deputy of the Department of Environment Dr Ahmad Keikha who is a strong supporter of the ICS efforts to save the Asiatic Cheetah. He also clearly stated that we should try and find peace through conservation issues and efforts.....

This could be another great opportunity if we (IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands) and WLT were to team up to support a fantastic local NGO in their invaluable effort to protect biodiversity.

Iran's nature has not experienced fantastic days in recent years and political sanctions against the country have adversely affected not only the people, but also the nature and animals. I am sure with respect to the emerging situation at global era between Iran and international community; such partnerships would be influential to accelerate the Iranian Cheetah Society's pioneering role to promote nature protection in Iran, especially for iconic big cats such as Asiatic cheetahs and Persian leopards.

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