IRAN — Wildlife conservationists celebrated the sighting of a family of cheetahs in Iran as relations between the United States and Iran continue to show signs of improvement—a positive development in the fight to save these animals.

This past Friday, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator in nuclear talks with Iran, called for a pause on new sanctions against the Iranian government.

WILDLIFE IN IRAN: Asiatic Cheetahs showing signs of improvement.
Asiatic Cheetahs showing signs of improvement. Photograph: Amirhossein Khaleghi /PWHF/CACP/UNDP/DOE

This follows an incident from a few weeks back, when President Obama and the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, had the first phone conversation between leaders of the respective governments since 1979. The moment carried great global significance for several reasons, and was a positive development for the campaign to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah.

Asiatic cheetahs are extinct everywhere except Iran; where research has suggested only 40 to 70 cheetahs remain in the wild.

Images taken earlier this week captured five Asiatic cheetahs, a mother and four cubs, in Turan National Park. The sighting provided hope for conservationists who have worked tirelessly to protect the cheetahs and raise awareness in the Persian country.

“In the past year or so that we closely monitored Turan, we never spotted a family, especially female cheetahs with cubs. It shows Asiatic cheetahs are surviving, breeding cubs are managing to continue life. It’s good news against a barrage of bad news about these animals,” Delaram Ashayeri, project manager at the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, told The Guardian.

Since 2006, led by the United States, the United Nations have imposed sanctions against Iran to deter them from developing nuclear weapons. These sanctions have made the work of conservationists even more difficult.

Nuclear Mushroom cloud over Nagasaki Photo: Charles Levy
A mushroom cloud over Nagasaki. Photo: Charles Levy

“Unfortunately, due to sanctions, we have not been able to reach international funds,” Morteza Eslami, head of the Iranian Cheetah Society told The Guardian.

“We are an NGO, we are independent of the government but due to sanctions we had serious difficulties in obtaining camera traps, for example. It is not possible to directly buy them and we have to go through a number of intermediaries and that means that we have to pay more to get our hands on them. Also, we have banking restrictions, making it difficult for us to pay for these camera traps.”

So Under Secretary Sherman’s call to delay further sanctions against Iran provides a ray of hope for the Asiatic cheetah, and for the counter proliferation of weapons with the power to extinguish all life on earth.

— Israel Igualate, exclusive to Global Animal

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