DOE proposes $375,000 budget for cheetah conservation

December 7, 2017

TEHRAN — Iran’s Department of Environment (DOE) has presented a 15-billion-rial (nearly $375,000) budget proposal to Budget and Planning Organization for Asiatic cheetah conservation plans.

“Department of Environment chief [Isa Kalantari] and Budget and Planning Organization director [Mohammad Baqer Nobakht] have agreed on a budget of 15 billion rials in cash for cheetah conservation project,” ISNA quoted Hamid Zohrabi, caretaker for DOE natural environment and biodiversity directorate, as saying.

“We are following up on the matter,” he added.

Zohrabi further explained that Environment chief has ordered another 10 billion-rial (nearly $250,000) allocation of funds from DEO’s other projects to shrink Asiatic cheetah conservation project budget deficit.  

So far DOE natural environment and biodiversity directorate has allocated some 5 billion rials (nearly $125,000) for cheetah conservation projects, but unfortunately over the past two years the department was under budget strain and could not spend budget on any of national conservation plans namely Asiatic cheetah conservation, Zohrabi regretted. 

Speaking on United Nations Development Program (UNDP) latest decision about Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP) by not extending the project and cutting the international funds to it, he noted that in order to keep carrying out the project “we have to support it financially with tight DOE budget”. 

Asiatic cheetah conservation relatively successful

Regarding the numbers and the budget limits it unfair to criticize Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP), he highlighted, saying, the project may have not been able to fully counter all the threats constituting to cheetahs impeding extinction but it has been partly successful.

The cheetah/livestock interactions and the presence of human beings and guard dogs in cheetah’s habitats, road accidents and habitat fragmentation due to human encroachment, water shortage, etc. are of the threats making the cheetah’s future uncertain and posing constant threats to cheetahs in Iran. 

Based on the sightings the number of remaining Asiatic cheetahs can be estimated at almost 50. However, due to the shortcomings of counting methods the number is not exact.  

Asiatic cheetahs’ population was once believed to roughly stand at 70 to 120, Zohrabi said, explaining, however, the numbers are not reliable and were only based on unrealistic and inaccurate estimates.

“So once being compared to today’s estimates [about 50] some deem Conservation of Asiatic cheetah project inefficient,” he added.

Many may attribute the dramatic decrease- though unreasonable- to the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project unproductive techniques in safeguarding the precious species. 

“Nonetheless the project has prevented total extinction and we hope to reverse the extinction by eliminating the threats in the near future,” he suggested.

Female cheetah, two cubs spotted in national park

On a happier note concurrent with the International Cheetah Day, December 4, a female cheetah and her two cubs were spotted in Touran National Park, Semnan province, by the rangers patrolling the area, Iran’s environment and wildlife watch website reported. 

The Asiatic cheetah mainly inhabits the desert areas around Dasht-e Kavir in the eastern half of Iran, including parts of Kerman, Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Tehran, and Markazi provinces. Most live in five protected areas, Kavir National Park, Touran National Park, Bafq Protected Area, Dar-e Anjir Wildlife Refuge, and Naybandan Wildlife Reserve. The cheetah has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1996.

MQ/MG