Wildlife & Biodiversity

Asiatic Cheetah cubs born for the first time in captivity in Iran

The cubs were delivered by C-section at the Touran Wildlife Refuge in the Semnan province east of Tehran on May 1, 2022

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Monday 02 May 2022
A photo of the three cubs shared by IRNA News Agency on its Twitter handle
A photo of the three cubs shared by IRNA News Agency on its Twitter handle A photo of the three cubs shared by IRNA News Agency on its Twitter handle

A rare and highly-endangered female Asiatic Cheetah has given birth to three cubs in captivity, a first for the subspecies, the head of the Iranian environment department told IRNA news agency on May 1, 2022.

The female named ‘Iran’ delivered the cubs by caesarean section at the Touran Wildlife Refuge in the Semnan province east of Tehran, IRNA reported. “This is the first birth of an Asiatic cheetah in captivity,” Ali Salajegheh, the head of the department, said.

The Iranian Cheetah Society said the mother and cubs were doing fine. “All three cubs are healthy but the mother didn’t accept the cubs yet. All experts from various countries are in touch with the field team,” it later said in an update.

Hassan Akbari, Iran’s deputy environment minister, had said this January that the Asiatic Cheetah was down to just 12, from an estimated 100 in 2010, Arab News reported.

Cheetah conservation in Iran had caused controversy in 2018, when the Iranian regime arrested seven members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a local conservation group.

The seven were accused of spying for the Islamic Republic’s enemies. One, Iranian-Canadian university professor Kavous Seyed Emami, died in prison under mysterious circumstances while the others are still in jail, according to Arab News.

The cheetah or Acinonyx Jubatus, the fastest terrestrial animal on earth was once found in Africa, Iran and India. The cheetahs found in Iran and India are classified as the ‘Asiatic’ (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) subspecies, different from the African.

The Shah of Iran with his pet cheetahs as depicted in a Victorian illustration. Photo: iStock

In 1947, Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh, the ruler of a small princely state in today’s Chhattisgarh shot India’s last three surviving cheetahs. The animal was declared officially extinct in the Republic of India in 1952.

India had tried to get Iranian Asiatic Cheetahs in the 1970s. The country was then under Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. MK Ranjitsinh, chairperson of the Supreme Court-appointed committee for the reintroduction of the cheetah in India, had talked to Down To Earth about this ‘cheetah diplomacy’.

The plan was to exchange Asiatic lions for Asiatic cheetahs. However, the Emergency interrupted everything. At the same time, the regime of the Shah of Iran fell. The plan thus did not reach fruition, he had said.

Another attempt to source Iranian Cheetahs was made in 2009 without success. Iran would not permit even cloning of its Cheetahs.

According to Arab News, minister Akbari had said this January that Iranian Cheetahs had been victims of drought, hunters and car accidents, which had caused the drastic decline in their numbers.

India is now waiting for cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia, which will first be taken to Kuno-Palpur National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

A team of five experts had left for Namibia February 17, to finalise details on translocating African cheetahs to India, as reported by DTE. The tour had to be postponed in September 2021 due to floods and the subsequent omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

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