Over the course of several thousand years, the cheetah served as an important status symbol in numerous civilizations including the Egyptian, Persian, Mughal, and Frankish Empires. Akbar the Great was said to have kept 1,000 cheetahs on his palace grounds, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia had an affinity for keeping them as pets.
But like many large African and Asiatic mammals, cheetahs are now threatened by a loss of habitat, genetic issues, poaching, and a range of other problems. The fastest land animal on earth is now threatened by extinction and is in a race against time as its numbers dwindle, with just over a few thousands remaining in the wild.
Photographer Frans Lanting and filmmaker Christine Eckstrom have spent years documenting the natural world and teaching people how they can coexist with wildlife. In the following film from National Geographic Live, Lanting and Eckstrom explain how they documented rare cheetahs in Africa and in Iran and what challenges lay ahead for these elusive felines.
Global cheetah populations have plummeted over the past century, from an estimated 100,000 cheetahs in 1900 to fewer than 10,000 today. And once upon a time, cheetahs roamed the deserts of Iran. But international scientificsurveys recently confirmed what Iranian biologists already suspected– today there are fewer than 100 Asiatic cheetahs left on earth.
The Iranian Cheetah Society, founded in 2001, has started using social media, including their youtube channel, to promote awareness about endangered Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. The organization posts short video clips from their research in northeastern Iran, both in the Miandasht Wildlife Refuge and the Behkadeh Reserve, featuring rare Iranian cheetahs in the wild.
The dwindling population of Persian gazelles, devastated by heavy poaching in previous decades, has negatively impacted Iran’s cheetahs. Poachers are a serious threat to many endangered species across the Middle East.
A recent picture we featured of Lebanese bird hunters and their kill in a national park sparked fiery debates on social media. And in the case of Iran, both their cheetah and leopard populations are teetering on the brink of extinction.
According to Wikipedia The Asiatic Cheetah is a critically endangered subspecies of the Cheetah found today only in Iran, with some occasional sightings in Balochistan, Pakistan.
It lives in its vast central desert in fragmented pieces of remaining suitable habitat. Although once common, the animal was driven to extinction in other parts of Southwest Asia from Arabia to India and Afghanistan.
Estimates based on field surveys over ten years indicate a remaining population of 70 to 100 Asiatic Cheetahs, most of them in Iran.