Iran’s two Asiatic cheetahs reach ‘the bitter end’

December 11, 2019 - 18:35

TEHRAN – Two Asiatic cheetahs, kept in captivity at Tehran’s Pardisan Park, have reached the bitter end because they have lost their ability to regenerate and should be returned to nature.

Female Asiatic cheetah, Delbar, and the male one, Kushki have lived in the capital for the past few years.

In 2015, the female Asiatic cheetah once became pregnant naturally but sadly lost her cub.

Last year (March 2018-March 2019), Delbar was physically prepared for mating with Kushki, however, possibly due to Kushki’s old age, the two didn’t breed.

Delbar underwent artificial insemination earlier this year (starting on March 21), which turned out unsuccessful.

Natural mating and artificial insemination have been already tried for Asiatic cheetahs kept in captivity, which sadly failed. Now, fertilizing the female Asiatic cheetah is nearly impossible due to their old age.

Baqer Nezami, conservation of Asiatic cheetah project manager, told IRNA on Wednesday that Delbar and Kushki are 9 and 11 years old respectively, so they have lost their ability to regenerate.

Female cheetahs are first bred at an age of approximately 3 years, reaching maximum reproductive age at 6-8 years, where after fertility declines. Males reach peak reproduction at 6 and maintained this for up to 12 years of age.

In the last few years, many attempts have been made to reproduce the cheetahs, but no success achieved, so it seems better for the two animals to return to where they belong, not to be released in nature as soon as they turn back, he said.

He went on to add that they should be kept in a fenced area in Touran National Park and Miandasht Wildlife Refuge, where they were born.

It is true that the two animals have lost their regenerative ability, but they are valuable species, so if kept in those areas, they may attract other cheetahs, he added.

Responding to the question that is it necessary to transfer them to nature, he said: “It depends on the plan, we have had several meetings to make the final decision, but it no solution came up.”

“Sometimes I wonder why these two animals have been kept in captivity for so many years, and what to do now when both have reached adulthood,” he lamented.

Of course, keeping them in captivity was beneficial because the medical team took care of them and maintained their health, he said, adding, but what makes us sad is that a genetic reserve will be lost.

Elsewhere in his remarks, he noted that “we plan to work on the young cheetah named “Iran” which is three years old and the pregnancy possibility is high, so we will use sperms in the gene bank for artificial insemination.”

No one denies conservation in nature, but given the situation the cheetah needs to have more serious plans to be conserved, we can even try artificial insemination on cheetahs that are unable to survive in nature after an accident, he explained.

There are some successful patterns in the world that we can use, for example, South Africa has been successful to increase cheetahs’ population, he said.

“We have an experienced team currently and can recognize successful ways of cheetah breeding so that we should act urgently without a waste of time,” he concluded.

Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) have long, slender bodies covered with unique black spots scattered across their tan coats. The name cheetah comes from the Sanskrit word "chitraka," which means "the spotted one," according to the World Wildlife Fund.

With aerodynamic bodies, long legs, and blunt, semi-retractable claws, cheetahs are formidable carnivores that can sprint at speeds of up to 60 to 70 mph (96 to 112 km/h), according to the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species, most cheetah subspecies are considered vulnerable as all populations of them are on the decline.

Cheetahs are found across Africa especially in the northern part of it; and a scattered population of them can be found across eastern and southern Africa, once they had been found in a wide range of Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

The Iranian cheetah population seems to be in trouble; the incidental killing of cheetahs by people or livestock guarding dogs, habitat fragmentation and loss of biological corridors and prey base depletion, mining activity, and road construction were among the main factors that threatened the lives of these valuable species.

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