Head of the Asiatic Cheetah Conservation Project, Houman Jokar, announced that a team of experts from France will soon arrive in Iran to perform artificial insemination on the last surviving Asiatic cheetahs, Koushki and Delbar.
While their numbers have stabilized in parts of southern Africa, they have largely disappeared from northern Africa and Asia. Now, with the exception of small areas within Iran, the cats are nearly gone.
Iran launched its protection project in 2001 with the support of the United Nations “when we realized Iran was the last country to have any Asiatic cheetahs”, said Hooman Jokar, who heads the programme.
The Asiatic cheetah is slightly smaller in size and has a lighter coat than the African cheetah. The cats are known for their distinctive black tear-marks on the sides of their nose. Both Asiatic and African cheetahs are the fastest land mammals in the world reaching speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. The Asian variety has dwindled due to lack of prey, hunting, farming, industry and the building of human infrastructure across its homelands.
Due to Koushki’s advanced age, they have decided to go ahead with artificial insemination in order to ensure the survival of this species.
Koushki is a male cheetah born in 2006. Now at 12, and with no coupling having yet occurred, there are growing concerns that the male cheetah would be too old to be able to naturally mate with Delbar.
Delbar, now a 6-year-old female Asiatic cheetah, was brought to the fenced enclosure at Tehran’s Pardisan park by conservation officials in hopes that she would mate with Koushki.
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Jokar told Mehr News that they have stored a few samples of Koushki’s sperm in liquid nitrogen in order to ease all concerns.
“Of course, Koushki is perfectly healthy and if we want to perform insemination, we will go directly for his own sperm instead of using the stored one,” Jokar explained, noting that the task had been carried out with help from a team of German experts.
“We are now in talks with a team of French experts who came to Iran once and we held a workshop with them in which they explained what they were going to do,” Jokar said. “About 20 days ago, I was in Paris to finalize our negotiations, and it was decided that the team would come to Iran in the second half of this January to begin the project of artificial insemination.”
“If the insemination is successful, the period of pregnancy will last between 90 to 95 days, and we can expect the birth of a cub in the spring,” he added.
Cover image: A female Asiatic cheetah named ‘Dalbar’ walks in an enclosure at Pardisan Park in Tehran on October 10, 2017.
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