A female Asiatic cheetah has given birth to three cubs in Iran, in the first captive birth of this critically endangered feline species, the official agency reported on Sunday.
“Three baby cheetahs were born healthy by caesarean section” in the Touran wildlife refuge in Semanan province, east of Tehran, the head of Iran’s environment department, Ali Salajegheh, was quoted by IRNA as saying.
“Since this is the first calving of an Asian cheetah in captivity, the cheetah population can be increased by preserving the cubs,” he added.
Twenty Asian cheetahs in Iran
“Initial veterinary care has been provided and the condition of the mother and babies is now normal but they are still in intensive care,” the official said.
According to him, less than 20 Asian cheetahs have so far been spotted in the various Iranian provinces where the animal lives.
In January, Iran’s deputy environment minister said the country was home to only a dozen Asiatic cheetahs, also known as Iran’s cheetahs.
Cheetahs once moved from eastern India to the Atlantic coast of Senegal and beyond. They are still found in parts of southern Africa, but have all but disappeared from North Africa and Asia.
The “Acinonyx jubatus venaticus” subspecies, commonly known as the Asiatic cheetah, is critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Iran, one of the last countries in the world where Asian cheetahs live in the wild, launched a United Nations-backed conservation program in 2001. In 2014, Iran’s football team sported a cheetah image on his World Cup shirts.