The Asiatic Cheetah is now also known as the Iranian Cheetah, as the world's last few are known to survive mostly in Iran.
DNA comparisons show that these Asiatic cheetahs split from other cheetahs, which lived in Africa, 30,000 years ago. Researchers suggest that Iran's cheetahs must be conserved to protect the future of all cheetahs. Cheetahs formerly existed in 44 countries in Africa but are now only found in 29. Historically, they were also recorded across southwest and central Asia but can now only be found in Iran.
The Cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. The head and body of the adult Asiatic Cheetah measure from 112 to 135 cm with a tail length between 66 and 84 cm. It can weigh from 34 to 54 kg, but the male is slightly larger than the female.
Cheetahs thrive in open lands, small plains, semi-desert areas, and other open habitats where prey is available. The Asiatic Cheetah is found in the Kavir desert region of Iran, which includes parts of the Kerman, Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Tehran, and Markazi provinces. The Asiatic Cheetah also seems to survive in the dry open Baluchistan province of Pakistan where adequate prey is available. The cheetah's habitat is under threat from desertification, increasing agriculture, residential settlements, and declining prey — caused by hunting and degradation in pastures by overgrazing from introduced livestock. Females, unlike males, do not establish a territory, which means they “travel” within their habitats. This is an important attribute to consider in conservation.
The Asiatic Cheetah is a rare critically endangered subspecies of the Cheetah found today only in Iran, with some occasional sightings in Baluchistan, Pakistan. It lives in its vast central desert in fragmented pieces of remaining suitable habitat. In recent times in the last century this once numerous and common animal was driven to extinction elsewhere in its entire former range in Southwest Asia from Arabia to India including Afghanistan; latest research shows that only 70 to 100 Asiatic Cheetahs are estimated to remain, most of them in Iran. This is the result of continuous field surveys, all of which have been verified by the results of more than 12,000 nights of camera trapping inside its fragmented Iranian desert habitats during the past 10 years. The Asiatic Cheetah, the Eurasian Lynx and the Persian Leopard are the only remaining species of large cats in Iran today with the once common Caspian Tiger having already been driven to extinction in the last century.
Together with the United Nations Development Program, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society the Iranian Department of the Environment has established a program to make conservation of the Asiatic cheetah a national priority. Conservationists are concerned that time is running out for Iran's cheetahs.