The Asiatic or Persian cheetah is a Critically Endangered cheetah subspecies. Asiatic cheetahs are today only found in Iran. They once roamed a much larger territory ranging from the Arabian Peninsula and the Near East to the Caspian region, Kyzylkum Desert, Pakistan and India.
The Asiatic cheetah separated from the cheetah population in Africa between 32,000 and 67,000 years ago. Hundreds of year back the population of Asiatic cheetahs numbered in the tens of thousands.
It is now only found in Iran having become extinction in all the other locations in the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of hunting by farmers and for sport, habitat loss and the extinction of its prey. In the 1970s the Asiatic cheetah population in Iran was estimated to number around 200 individuals spread over 11 protected areas made up by 15 to 17 family groups.
By the end of the 1990s, the population dropped to between 50 and 100 individuals. It is currently believed to number less than 50, surviving in protected areas in the eastern-central arid region of Iran made up of three subpopulations that are scattered over 140,000 sq km in Iran’s central plateau.
Unless exceptional conservation efforts are undertaken with urgency in collaboration with the Iranian government, it is expected that the Asiatic cheetah would become extinct in the next decade or even sooner. This is yet another victim of the ongoing mass extinction of species caused entirely by humans.