Asiatic Cheetah

Asiatic Cheetah

Overview
The Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) is now also known as the Iranian Cheetah, as the world's last few are known to survive mostly in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. Although recently presumed to be extinct in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, it is also known as the Indian Cheetah. During British colonial times in India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 it was famous by the name of Hunting-Leopard, a name derived from the ones that were kept in captivity in large numbers by the Indian royalty to hunt wild antelopes with.
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Encyclopedia
The Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) is now also known as the Iranian Cheetah, as the world's last few are known to survive mostly in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. Although recently presumed to be extinct in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, it is also known as the Indian Cheetah. During British colonial times in India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 it was famous by the name of Hunting-Leopard, a name derived from the ones that were kept in captivity in large numbers by the Indian royalty to hunt wild antelopes with. (In some languages all cheetah species are still called exactly that; i.e. Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

: jachtluipaard.)

The Asiatic Cheetah is a rare critically endangered subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of the Cheetah
Cheetah
The cheetah is a large-sized feline inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The cheetah is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, most notable for modifications in the species' paws...

 found today only in Iran, with some occasional sightings in Balochistan, Pakistan
Balochistan (region)
Balochistan or Baluchistan is an arid, mountainous region in the Iranian plateau in Southwest Asia; it includes part of southeastern Iran, western Pakistan, and southwestern Afghanistan. The area is named after the numerous Baloch tribes, Iranian peoples who moved into the area from the west...

. It lives in its vast central desert in fragmented pieces of remaining suitable habitat. In recent times in the last century this once numerous and common animal was driven to extinction elsewhere in its entire former range in Southwest Asia from Arabia to India including Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

; latest research shows that only 70 to 100 Asiatic Cheetahs are estimated to remain, most of them in Iran. This is the result of continuous field surveys, all of which have been verified by the results of more than 12,000 nights of camera trap
Camera trap
A camera trap is a remotely activated camera that is equipped with a motion sensor or an infrared sensor, or uses a light beam as a trigger. Camera trapping is a method for capturing wild animals on film when researchers are not present, and has been used in ecological research for decades...

ping inside its fragmented Iranian desert habitats during the past 10 years. The Asiatic Cheetah, the Eurasian Lynx
Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian lynx is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, South Asia and East Asia. It is also known as the European lynx, common lynx, the northern lynx, and the Siberian or Russian lynx...

 and the Persian Leopard
Persian Leopard
The Persian leopard , also called Caucasian leopard, is the largest leopard subspecies, and is native to eastern Turkey, the Caucasus mountains, northern Iran, southern Turkmenistan, and parts of western Afghanistan...

 are the only remaining species of large cats in Iran today with the once common Caspian Tiger
Caspian Tiger
The Caspian tiger, also known as the Turan tiger and Hyrcanian tiger, is an extinct tiger subspecies that has been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s, and used to inhabit the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors west and south of the Caspian Sea, from Turkey, Iran and west through...

 having already been driven to extinction in the last century; though recent genetic study has proven the Caspian to be genetically identical to the contemporary Siberian tiger, hinting that habitat fragmentation had separated the two subspecies within the last century.

Anatomy and morphology


The Cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. The head and body of the adult Asiatic Cheetah measure from 112 to 135 cm with a tail length between 66 and 84 cm. It can weigh from 34 to 54 kg, but the male is slightly larger than the female.

Habitat


Cheetahs thrive in open lands, small plains, semi-desert areas, and other open habitats where prey is available. The Asiatic Cheetah is found in the Kavir desert region of Iran, which includes parts of the Kerman
Kerman
- Geological characteristics :For the Iranian paleontologists, Kerman has always been considered a fossil paradise. Finding new dinosaur footprints in 2005 has now revealed new hopes for paleontologists to better understand the history of this area.- Economy :...

, Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

, Semnan
Semnan Province
Semnan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the north of the country, and its center is Semnan. The province of Semnan covers an area of 96,816 square kilometers and stretches along the Alborz mountain range and borders to Dasht-e Kavir desert in its southern parts.Counties of...

, Yazd
Yazd Province
Yazd Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the centre of the country, and its administrative center is the city of Yazd.The province has an area of 131,575 km², and according to the most recent divisions of the country, is divided into eleven counties: Maybod, Mehreez, Taft,...

, Tehran
Tehran Province
Tehran Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It covers on area of 18,909 square kilometers and is located to the north of the central plateau of Iran....

, and Markazi
Markazi Province
Markazi Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. The word markazi means central in Persian. Markazi lies in western Iran. Its capital is Arak. Its population is estimated at 1.35 million...

 provinces. The Asiatic Cheetah also seems to survive in the dry open Balochistan province of Pakistan where adequate prey is available. The cheetah's habitat is under threat from desertification
Desertification
Desertification is the degradation of land in drylands. Caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities, desertification is one of the most significant global environmental problems.-Definitions:...

, increasing agriculture, residential settlements, and declining prey — caused by hunting and degradation in pastures by overgrazing
Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...

 from introduced livestock. Females, unlike males, do not establish a territory, which means they “travel” within their habitats. This is an important attribute to consider in conservation.

Feeding ecology




The Asiatic Cheetah preys on small antelope
Antelope
Antelope is a term referring to many even-toed ungulate species indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia. Antelopes comprise a miscellaneous group within the family Bovidae, encompassing those old-world species that are neither cattle, sheep, buffalo, bison, nor goats...

s.

In Iran, the diet of the Asiatic Cheetah consists mainly of Jebeer Gazelle
Chinkara
The Chinkara is a species of gazelle found in south Asia.-Habitat and Distribution:It lives in grasslands and desert areas in India, Bangladesh and parts of Iran and Pakistan...

 (also called Chinkara), Goitered Gazelle
Goitered Gazelle
The Goitered, Black-tailed or Persian gazelle is a gazelle found in the north part of Azerbaijan, in a large area of central Asia, including part of Iran and southern west Pakistan in the western end of the range, as well as the Gobi desert...

, wild sheep, Wild Goat
Wild Goat
The wild goat is a widespread species of goat, with a distribution ranging from Europe and Asia Minor to central Asia and the Middle East. It is the ancestor of the domestic goat.-Social structure:...

, and Cape Hare
Cape Hare
The Cape, Common or Brown Hare is a hare natively found throughout Africa, and has spread to many parts of the Europe, Middle East and Asia. The Cape Hare is a nocturnal herbivore.They are fast...

. The Asiatic Cheetah’s range is restricted to the Central Iranian plateau
Iranian plateau
The Iranian plateau, or Iranic plateau, is a geological formation in Southwest Asia. It is the part of the Eurasian Plate wedged between the Arabian and Indian plates, situated between the Zagros mountains to the west, the Caspian Sea and the Kopet Dag to the north, the Hormuz Strait and Persian...

. The main threat to the species is loss of their primary prey species, Jebeer gazelle, goitered gazelle, urial
Urial
The Urial , also known as the Arkars or Shapo, is a subspecies group of the wild sheep Ovis orientalis. Noticeable features are the reddish-brown long fur that fades during winter; males are characterized by a black ruff stretching from the neck to the chest and large horns. It is found in western...

 sheep, and wild goat
Wild Goat
The wild goat is a widespread species of goat, with a distribution ranging from Europe and Asia Minor to central Asia and the Middle East. It is the ancestor of the domestic goat.-Social structure:...

, due to poaching and grazing competition with domestic livestock. Habitat loss from mining development and poaching of Asiatic Cheetahs also threaten their populations in Iran. "Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Conservation Society based at the Bronx Zoo was founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society and currently manages some of wild places around the world, with over 500 field conservation projects in 60 countries, and 200 scientists on staff...

 (WCS)" and the "Department of Environment, Iran (DoE)" have started a collaring project for Asiatic Cheetahs in the fall of 2006.

In India fifty years ago, prey was abundant, and it fed on the Blackbuck
Blackbuck
Blackbuck is a species of antelope native to the Indian subcontinent. Their range decreased sharply during the 20th century. Since 2003, the IUCN lists the species as near threatened....

, the Chinkara
Chinkara
The Chinkara is a species of gazelle found in south Asia.-Habitat and Distribution:It lives in grasslands and desert areas in India, Bangladesh and parts of Iran and Pakistan...

, and sometimes the Chital
Chital
The chital or cheetal , also known as chital deer, spotted deer or axis deer is a deer which commonly inhabits wooded regions of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and in small numbers in Pakistan...

 and the Nilgai
Nilgai
The nilgai , sometimes called nilgau, is an antelope, and is one of the most commonly seen wild animals of central and northern India and eastern Pakistan; it is also present in parts of southern Nepal. The mature males appear ox-like and are also known as blue bulls...

.

Evolutionary history


Molecular sequence comparisons suggest that a break in the geneflow between the African and Asiatic populations cheetahs occurred between 32,000 to 67,000 years ago. The populations in Iran are the last remaining representatives of the Asian lineage.

The Asiatic Cheetah once ranged from Arabia
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 to India, through Iran, central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In Iran and the Indian subcontinent, it was particularly numerous. Cheetahs are the only big cat
Big cat
The term big cat – which is not a biological classification – is used informally to distinguish the larger felid species from smaller ones. One definition of "big cat" includes the four members of the genus Panthera: the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard. Members of this genus are the only cats able...

 that can be tamed and trained to hunt gazelle
Gazelle
A gazelle is any of many antelope species in the genus Gazella, or formerly considered to belong to it. Six species are included in two genera, Eudorcas and Nanger, which were formerly considered subgenera...

. The Mughal Emperor of India, Akbar, was said to have had 1,000 cheetahs at one time, something depicted in many Persian and Indian miniature paintings. The numerous constraints regarding the Cheetah’s conservation contribute to its general susceptibility and its very complex conservation requirements, e.g., its low fertility rate, the high mortality rate of the cubs due to genetic factors, and the fact that females are the ones who select mates, have been reasons why captive breeding has had such a poor record. A Cheetah-specific issue is its limited gene pool. All living Cheetahs have very limited genetic diversity
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

 due to a near-extinction event some 12,000 years ago. The Cheetah will not be a “robust, vigorous species anytime in the foreseeable future"

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the species was already heading for extinction in many areas. The last physical evidence of the Asiatic Cheetah in India was three shot by the Maharajah of Surguja in 1947 in eastern Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh , often called the Heart of India, is a state in central India. Its capital is Bhopal and Indore is the largest city....

. By 1990, the Asiatic Cheetah appeared to survive only in Iran. Estimated to number more than 200 during the 1970s, more recently Iranian biologist Hormoz Asadi estimated that the number of Asiatic Cheetahs left to be between 50 and 100 and figures for 2005-2006 are between 50 and 60 in the wild. Most of these 60 Asiatic Cheetahs live in Iran on the Kavir desert. A remnant population inhabits the dry terrain covering the border of Iran and Pakistan. In the areas in which the cheetah lives, locals say they have not seen it for more than fifteen years.

Genetic sub-species level differentiation


Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) has for a long time been theoretically classified as a sub-species of the cheetah with the suffix "venaticus" applied at the end of its scientific binomial name Acinonyx jubatus but at a Cheetah reintroduction workshop organized in India on 9 September 2009 Stephen J. O'Brien
Stephen J. O'Brien
Stephen J. O'Brien is an American geneticist. He was the editor-in-chief, and is currently the advisory editor of the scientific journal Journal of Heredity. He received a Ph.D. degree studying genetics at Cornell University in 1971 and was a Cornell A. D...

 from the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity of the National Cancer Institute
National Cancer Institute
The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health , which is one of 11 agencies that are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NCI coordinates the U.S...

, USA, who has in the past conducted numerous prestigious genetic studies including those on Asiatic lions, said that, according to the latest modern genetic studies which became possible only now, it was discovered that, in fact, the Asiatic cheetah was genetically identical to the African Cheetah with which it was separated only about 5,000 years ago which was not enough time for a sub-species
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 level differentiation. In comparison, he said that the Asian
Asiatic Lion
The Asiatic lion also known as the Indian lion, Persian lion and Eurasian Lion is a subspecies of lion. The only place in the wild where the lion is found is in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India...

 and African lion subspecies were separated some 100,000 years ago, and the African and Asian leopard subspecies 169,000 years ago. Cheetah expert Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund
Cheetah Conservation Fund
Founded in 1990, the Cheetah Conservation Fund has as its mission to be the world’s resource charged with protecting the cheetahs and ultimately ensuring its future on our planet...

 (CCF) and other wildlife experts assembled for the occasion advised the Indian Government that for reintroduction
Cheetah Reintroduction in India
Reintroduction of Cheetah in India involves the artificial reestablishment of a population of cheetahs into areas where they had previously existed but were hunted into extinction by the British colonial officers and Indian Princes and Royalty; and where their former grassland scrub forest habitats...

 purposes India should source the Cheetah from Africa where they were much more numerous instead of trying to have some removed from the critically endangered low population of the world's last 70 to 100 or so Asiatic Cheetahs left in Iran. India's Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh; chief wildlife wardens of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh; officials of the environment ministry; Cheetah experts from across the globe including Laurie Marker from Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF); representatives from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) including Yadvendradev Jhala; and IUCN, an international conservation NGO, among others, participated. The conference was organized by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)

However, subsequently in 2011, a much more detailed five-year genetic study involving the gathering of DNA samples from the wild, zoos and museums in eight countries published in Molecular Ecology (Journal) on 8 January 2011, concluded that, in fact, African and Asiatic cheetahs were genetically very distinct and had, in fact, separated 32,000 to 67,000 years ago and subspecies level differentiation had, in fact, taken place due to longer separation from the African population. The effect of this latest revelation on India's plan to reintroduce Cheetahs to the country is yet unknown.

Conservation


Following the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 of 1979, wildlife conservation was given a lower priority. The Asiatic Cheetah and its principal prey, gazelles, were hunted, resulting in a rapid decline. As a result, the Asiatic Cheetah is now listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

 of Threatened Animals. Some surveys by Asadi in the latter half of 1997 show that urgent action is required to rehabilitate wildlife populations, especially gazelles and their habitat if the Asiatic Cheetah is to survive.
There are currently only 50-60 Asiatic Cheetahs left in the wild. They are confined to the desert areas around Dasht-e-Kavir in the eastern half of Iran. Most live in five sanctuaries: Kavir National Park
Kavir National Park
Kavir National Park is a protected ecological zone in northern Iran. It has an area of 4,000 square kilometers . The park is located 120 kilometers south of Tehran and 100 kilometers east of Qom, and it sits on the western end of one of Iran's two major deserts, the Dasht-e Kavir...

, Touran National Park, Bafq Protected Area, Daranjir Wildlife Reserve and Naybandan Wildlife Reserve

Threats


Land-use change has been a major factor in the Cheetah’s ecosystem. Persecution, habitat degradation and fragmentation, desertification, and direct killing of wildlife that the Cheetah preys upon, particularly game animals and off-take for commercial uses through poaching are all factors responsible for the chronic decline of the Cheetah in Iran. According to the Iranian Department of Environment this degradation has occurred especially between 1988 and 1991.

The Asiatic Cheetah exists in very low numbers, divided into widely separated populations. Its low density makes it more likely to be affected by a lack of prey through livestock overgrazing and antelope hunting, coupled with direct persecution from humans. While protected areas comprise a key component of the cheetah's habitat, management needs to be improved.

Widespread hunting of this animal and its prey species along with conversion of its grassland habitat to farmland has wiped it out completely from its entire range in southwest Asia and India. Critically endangered with extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

, there are less than a hundred Asiatic Cheetahs in the world; they can only be found in the central desert of Iran.

Coal, Opium, and the Cheetah: Coal, copper, and iron are the three important goods that have been mined in the Cheetah’s habitat in three different regions in central and eastern Iran. It is estimated that the two regions for coal (Nayband) and iron (Bafq) have the largest Cheetah population outside the protected areas. Mining itself is not a direct threat to Cheetahs; road construction and the resulting traffic have made the Cheetah accessible to humans, including poachers. The Iranian border regions to Afghanistan and Pakistan (Baluchistan province) have been, and still are, major passages for armed outlaws and opium smugglers who distribute their “goods” in the central and western regions of Iran; they must pass through the Cheetah habitat. The region suffers from uncontrolled hunting throughout the desert and the governments of the three countries cannot establish a fundamental change. According to Asadi this was the situation in 1997. There is no reliable information regarding the present situation in this region.

Conservation efforts



Iran's Department of the Environment, the United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is the United Nations' global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to...

 (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility
Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility unites 182 member governments — in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector — to address global environmental issues....

 (GEF) have launched the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) designed to preserve and rehabilitate the remaining areas of Cheetah habitat left in Iran.

Training Course for Herders: It is estimated that 10 Cheetahs live in the Bafq Protected Area. According to the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS), herders are considered as a significant target group which generally confuses the Cheetah with other similar-sized carnivores, including wolf, leopard, striped hyena, and even caracal and wild cat. On the basis of the results of conflict assessment, a specific Herders Training Course was developed in 2007, in which they learned how to identify the cheetah as well as other carnivores, since these were the main causes for livestock kills. These courses were a result of cooperation between UNDP/GEF, Iran’s Department of Environment, ICS, and the councils of five main villages in this region.

Cheetah Friends: Another incentive in the region is the formation of young core groups of Cheetah friends, who after a short instructive course, are able to educate people and organize Cheetah events and become an informational instance in Cheetah matters for a number of villages. It is encouraging that young people have been showing a great amount of interest for this issue; not only for the Cheetah, but for wildlife conservation in general.

Ex-situ conservation
Ex-situ conservation
Ex-situ conservation means literally, "off-site conservation". It is the process of protecting an endangered species of plant or animal outside of its natural habitat; for example, by removing part of the population from a threatened habitat and placing it in a new location, which may be a wild...

: India, where the Asiatic Cheetah is now extinct, is interested in cloning
Cloning
Cloning in biology is the process of producing similar populations of genetically identical individuals that occurs in nature when organisms such as bacteria, insects or plants reproduce asexually. Cloning in biotechnology refers to processes used to create copies of DNA fragments , cells , or...

 the cheetah to reintroduce it to the country, and it was claimed that Iran - the donor country - was willing to participate in the project. Later on, however, Iran refused to send a male and female cheetah or to allow experts to collect tissue samples from a cheetah kept in a zoo there. Currently, the Indian government is actively considering reintroducing Cheetahs through importing from Africa through captive breeding.

Semi-Captive - Breeding and Research Center of Iranian cheetah, Semnan province


In February 2010 Mehr News Agency
Mehr News Agency
The isan Iranian news agency headquartered in Tehran, owned by the .Established in July 2003, MNA is the most multilingual news agency in the Islamic Republic of Iran and its’ CEO and Director General is currently Reza Moghadasi....

, Payvand Iran News released the photos of an Asiatic/Iranian Cheetah in a seemingly large compound within natural habitat enclosed by chain link fence, this location was reported in this news article to be the "Semi-Captive - Breeding and Research Center of Iranian Cheetah" in Iran's Semnan province
Semnan Province
Semnan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the north of the country, and its center is Semnan. The province of Semnan covers an area of 96,816 square kilometers and stretches along the Alborz mountain range and borders to Dasht-e Kavir desert in its southern parts.Counties of...

. The Asiatic Cheetah pictured had a winter coat with long and furry hair.

Another related news report stated that the centre boasts about 10 individual critically endangered Asiatic Cheetahs in this semi-wild environment protected by wire fencing all around.

In January 2010, Iran and Russia had jointly announced plans to revive both the Asiatic Cheetah and the Amur Tiger species (which has been shown to be genetically similar to the extinct Caspian Tiger of the area) in and around the Caspian region through a joint project in the near future.

Re-wilding project in India



Cheetahs have been known to exist in India for a very long time. But due to hunting and other purposes, Cheetahs in India became extinct in the twentieth century. Hence, the Indian government is planning a re-wilding project for Cheetahs. The article in TOI, Page 11, Thursday, 9 July 2009, clearly suggests the importation of Cheetahs into India where they will be bred in captivity. Cheetahs have been extinct in India since the 1940s, and hence the government is planning this project. Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh
Jairam Ramesh
Jairam Ramesh born April 9, 1954, is an Indian economist and an influential politician of the Congress Party in the United Progressive Alliance ruling coalition of center-left political parties heading the Government of India. He is a Member of Parliament representing Andhra Pradesh state in the...

, told the Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Rajya means "state," and Sabha means "assembly hall" in Sanskrit. Membership is limited to 250 members, 12 of whom are chosen by the President of India for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature,...

 on 7 July 2009 that, "The cheetah is the only animal that has been described extinct in India in the last 100 years. We have to get them from abroad to repopulate the species." He was responding to a calling attention notice from Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the Bharatiya Janata Party
Bharatiya Janata Party
The Bharatiya Janata Party ,; translation: Indian People's Party) is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Indian National Congress. Established in 1980, it is India's second largest political party in terms of representation in the parliament...

 (BJP). "The plan to bring back the Cheetah which fell to indiscriminate hunting and complex factors like a fragile breeding
Breeding in the wild
Breeding in the wild is the natural process of animal reproduction occurring in the natural habitat of a given species. This terminology is distinct from animal husbandry or breeding of species in captivity...

 pattern is audacious given the problems besetting tiger conservation." Two naturalists, Divya Bhanusinh and MK Ranjit Singh, suggested the idea of importing cheetahs from Africa. After their importation they will be bred in captivity and, after a definite period of time, released in the wild.

Russia–Iran Re-population project


Iranian and Russian ecologists are planning a joint project intended to return to the wild Caspian Tiger
Caspian Tiger
The Caspian tiger, also known as the Turan tiger and Hyrcanian tiger, is an extinct tiger subspecies that has been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s, and used to inhabit the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors west and south of the Caspian Sea, from Turkey, Iran and west through...

s as well as Asiatic Cheetahs in the Central Asian region. These big cats had disappeared, the Asiatic Cheetah from Russia and the Caspian Tiger from Iran, some half a century ago. Latest genetic studies have shown that the Russian or Amur Tiger
Amur Tiger
The Siberian tiger , also known as the Amur tiger, is a tiger subspecies inhabiting mainly the Sikhote Alin mountain region with a small subpopulation in southwest Primorye province in the Russian Far East. In 2005, there were 331–393 adult-subadult Amur tigers in this region, with a breeding adult...

 is related and virtually identical to the extinct Caspian Tigers and hence the Russians want to offer it to Iran to repopulate the Caspian Tiger range in northern Iran in exchange for critically endangered Asiatic Cheetahs that Russia wants to acquire from Iran, their last abode, to repopulate the northern Caucasus region of central Asia. It may be noted here that there are many more Russian or Amur Tigers in the wild than the tiny numbers of surviving Asiatic Cheetah and while there is a healthy population of Russian Tigers in the captive breeding program in the zoos there is no captive breeding population of the Asiatic Cheetah in any zoo. While discussing the prospects of reintroducing the Cheetah in India
Cheetah Reintroduction in India
Reintroduction of Cheetah in India involves the artificial reestablishment of a population of cheetahs into areas where they had previously existed but were hunted into extinction by the British colonial officers and Indian Princes and Royalty; and where their former grassland scrub forest habitats...

 the Cheetah experts from the world over have already warned that no individuals from the critically low Asiatic Cheetah population in Iran should be withdrawn at this stage for any reintroduction experiment elsewhere, like the one proposed by Russia in exchange for the relatively much more abundant Russian Tiger, as the limited gene pool
Gene pool
In population genetics, a gene pool is the complete set of unique alleles in a species or population.- Description :A large gene pool indicates extensive genetic diversity, which is associated with robust populations that can survive bouts of intense selection...

of Asiatic Cheetahs in Iran will suffer a tremendous blow.

External links