Secure Home for Asiatic Cheetah
The last Asiatic Cheetah wild population in the world is in Iran. The Miandasht Wildlife Refuge and Touran Biosphere Reserve are of vital importance to the survival of Iran’s cheetah population. The Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) investigations showed that livestock grazing rights in these two areas are endangering the cheetah.
The Netherland’s IUCN National Committee joined the ICS in searching for a solution to the overgrazing from livestock in the big cat habitat. The first idea was to relocate herders outside the national park during winter and spring, so the area’s fragile rangelands would provide resources for wild ungulates.
Project delays and Issues
There were several years of starting and stopping along the project’s path. In efforts to buy out the livestock grazing, permission prices had doubled. These sharp increases surpassed budged availability. The reduction of Rial value and increasing inflation, made ICS change the project location.
In 2018 after management changes in Semnan province, ICS reconsidered the Touran National Park for the project. Negotiations with one of the stock owners was working out and the budget was sufficient. Still the project remained idle.
In 2020 the ICS and Department of Environment worked with the Department of Forests and Rangelands along with the Iranian parliament but all was put on pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Success for the Next Generation of Asiatic Cheetah
Finally, in early 2021, there was success finalizing an agreement with one of the most important permission owners in Touran Biosphere Reserve. The revocation of an exploitation permit in the northern edge of Touran National Park. An area of 5,600 hectares will be permanently empty of livestock.
Conservation is complicated. Every situation and project has a unique set of issues to work through. Complications are more complex when local people and their own interests are involved. Tryin to find a win-win solutions is difficult and all parties should enter with an open mind.
Delayed for several years, the project hit multiple roadblocks and unforeseen events, but in the end has been a success. Tireless joint efforts secured a home range for the next generation of Asiatic Cheetah in a key Iranian reserve.