Working to Save Endangered Wildlife

January 21, 1998
TEHRAN The specter of many wildlife species disappearing from the earth's environment is drawing the attention of governments, non-governmental organizations and nature lovers all over the world, a leading wildlife conservationist said in an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times. Hormoz Asadi, currently in the country as a researcher for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), further said that the underlying problem of wildlife conservation is the increasing number of poachers and hunters who put human material gain ahead of global health or the values of a balanced ecological system.

The IUCN, a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland, is devoted exclusively to the protection of nature, Asadi said, adding that it coordinates in various conservation projects with Iran's Department of the Environment and the University of Gutenberg (Germany). He said their particular area of concern is in preserving, protecting and propagating the cheetah, a rare species of wildlife which belongs to the cat family and, in particular, the Asiatic cheetah which today can be found only in Iran. He said the Asiatic cheetah used to inhabit many parts of Asia, particularly Palestine, Iraq, Arabia, central and southern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and most of Central Asia, but that habitat loss and the depletion of food sources in the last two decades have made it settle in Iran. Their exact number is currently unavailable.

Describing the Asiatic cheetah, with the scientific name Acinonyx jubatus, Asadi said that although it belongs to the cat family, unlike the ordinary cat its claws are prominently protruding outward like those of a dog, whereas ordinary cats who do not sense a prey have their claws drawn inward. A distinguishing characteristic of the aforesaid carnivore are the two dark tear lines that start from both eyes to the side of its lips.

It has a brownish skin with dark spots and normally measures 50-70cm from the shoulder. Talking of the IUCN strategy in Iran, Asadi said right now its objectives are to study how many species of wildlife are in danger of extinction, to pinpoint their habitats and the measures needed to further their protection and reproduction. He mentioned the Siberian tiger, snow leopard, sand cat, pallas cat, Persian fellow deer (yellow deer), red deer (Kashmir stag), Asiatic rhino, Asiatic elephant, Marco Polo sheep and the musk deer are among the endangered species of wildlife found in the region.

Hormoz Asadi, has lived and worked in the field of wildlife conservation in 22 different countries all over the world. A conservation biologist by profession, he has an extraordinarily wide range of experience in his field, having held various positions as conservation consultant, researcher, coordinator for WWF, museum curator, etc. Asked to elaborate on the strategy of the IUCN, Asadi said that it has different specialist groups directly working on the protection and conservation of particular endangered animals.

One such group is the Cat Specialist Group which seeks to protect and conserve endangered species of the cat family. In reply to the question of what made him choose this particular field of endeavor, he said that it is important to protect species for future generations and for their biological and aesthetic value.