Tuesday 28 February 2012

New road risk to Iran’s cheetahs & leopards

Hotspot for two rare speciesFebruary 2012: One of Iran's national parks is fighting for survival. Like many other protected areas in the world, a road is planned to be developed through heart of the Bafq Protected Area, one of the main hotspots for two rare species, Asiatic cheetah and Persian leopard.

The new road plans are controversial, with critics claiming the current road is already adequate and the new route, which is not significantly shorter, would pass through dangerous and steep mountainous slopes so increasing fuel consumption and potentially leading to higher numbers of road accidents.
Important populations of cheetahs and leopardsLocated in central Iran, Bafq is one of the most important habitats for Iran's two big cats where numerous records of cheetah and leopard families indicate a breeding site for both species, and particularly for the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah.
It has been under official protection since 1996 and now there is a relatively good population of cheetah and leopard, as well as caracal and Manul's cat, in the area. Additionally Bafq has a good potential for sighting cheetahs which increases its chances of it becoming a prime site for ecotourism.
During the 1990s, numerous cheetahs were killed in the area by locals, but since an educational programme was launched there has been an impressive decline in poaching. However, the new road plans now pose a threat to this precious landscape.

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