In honor of the big cats!
Did you know that Cheetah, the fastest animal on the surface of the earth, lives in Iran? The Asiatic Cheetah used to have a large habitat from east of India all the way to Arabian peninsula, stretching to central Asia in the north, but it went extinct in all those countries and right now they only appear in semi desert regions of Iran.
Happy National Cheetah Day!
Besides December 4th, the International Cheetah Day, Iranians have a National Cheetah Day on August 31st. The date was picked after an accident back in 1998 in which a female cheetah and its cubs were deceased. The accident brought up attention towards these large felines and many activities have been taking place to decrease the threats for the cheetahs.
The Department of Environment of Iran (DOE) and environmental NGOs have put efforts to raise awareness in local communities. Cyclists and runners carried banners and spoke to truck drivers and car owners on the roads to slow down and pay attention to the animals running on the roads.
Volunteers met sheep and goat herders to inform them about the danger that shepherd dogs can create for the cheetahs. DOE passed a legislation to have insurance coverage for all domestic herds killed by cheetahs and panthers.
And a Cheetah Festival!
DOE and NGOs celebrate the big cat, and raise awareness of its critical situation by running a Cheetah Festival annually in end of August-early September in one of the cities near its habitat. In these festivals, programs include photo exhibition, submitted papers, documentary movies and animation productions, cartoons, paintings and graphic design. A member of DOE and other activists have speech about the risks and methods of protection of wildlife in these regions.
Some festivals have sport activities such as regional football cup between teams of semi arid regions as well as long distance running and cycling races. Iranian national football team picked up a design of Asiatic cheetah on its sportswear, and following this event, other national teams put pictures of other endangered species on their T-shirts.
Other Urgent Actions
People who live near habitats of cheetahs signed a written petition and NGOs held workshops about felines and their behaviour, along with new methods of research and their accomplishments.
A cheetah statue was unveiled in the city of Bafq and sign posts at the entrance of the city, now welcomes guests to the city of Cheetahs. Children’s book with a cheetah protagonist was written by a local mother and was published.
Even representatives of DOE attended and spoke at the friday prayer event, the most significant event in many cities, to raise people’s awareness. All these activities have brought attention to Iran’s biggest cats.
Fereshteh Sabetian is a World Heritage Studies graduate, a solo traveler, a coffee enthusiast and a cat lover :)