A latest camera trap image from Iran shows a critically endangered subspecies only after a long survey with camera traps. 

By Saikat Kumar Basu

The Asiatic cheetah now found only in Iran with numbers only approximately around fifty or less.  Iran has been trying their best to save it from extinction; unfortunately that has got much harder as the latest economic sanctions imposed recently by USA has made international aids for conservation purpose to disappear. International donations is where they get most of the money required towards the cheetah conservation efforts. 
It is sad that Asiatic cheetahs are doomed for extinction in next three decades. Iran is neither capable of conservation as well successful captive breeding gnif the species. Not will they share the animals with adjacent countries where they have more funding and necessary resources for multiplication and conservation of the species. Unfortunately international geopolitics together with failed diplomacy and related socio-political reasons have been an aggravating factor promoting the path for rapid extinction of Asiatic cheetahs. Where international cooperation has been necessary, diplomatic, economic and political isolation of Iran from the rest of the world is responsible for the rapid demise of the majestic indigenous big cat species from the continent of Asia. India is experimentally introducing African cheetahs into the country under surveillance and monitoring with species collected from South Africa and Namibia. The animals will possibly do good and multiply in India; but they are genetically different from the Asiatic cheetah. Lack of cooperation and egoistic approach of India and Iran destroyed the reintroduction of Asiatic lions in Iran in exchange for reintroduction of Asiatic cheetahs into India. Unfortunately, the political mess and lack of vision and maturity trimmed the bud of conservation efforts before it could take shape. How unfortunate it is that we are silently looking towards the extinction of an apex predator from the ecosystem due to our inaction and political and diplomatic differences. India has repeatedly tried to get this species to be reintroduced in a few former ranges, but different sanctions and slow bureaucratic and diplomatic actions have impacted this ambitious project in the past several times.,

However, there are opposite views to such reintroduction efforts too. Many opponents of the project has raised the question as why  should other animals be trapped and relocated for an animal that is not even native. According to them it is more of  a business proposition than wildlife conservation effort. Prominent opponents raised the points as  “Ranks and books can only get you to a certain point. Common sense and survival in the wild for the wild is when you’ll understand that it’s wrong. They are trapping leopards fencing huge areas and the ultimate goal is to have 36 cheetahs in our country in one park…cheetahs need 1000s of square kilometres…next is going to be some other park and wildlife that will suffer for a African cheetah and the tourists that want to see it. This is not a ecological decision. Pure business and fame. We can’t take care of what we have and bringing animals from a different country…great decision by high ranking officials that haven’t been to most of the forests.  With all due respect when you know the ground reality of our native Wildlife than its hard to understand the “introduction” not reintroduction of none native species. One of the high ranking officials you speak about is like family…it doesn’t mean that it’s right. If we really wanted to conserve cheetahs we would help Iran not buy them from Africa”. 
It is important to note that conservation is not just a fight between native species  vs the introduced or reintroduced species; the animal is introduced to create a natural ecosystem. Here the ecosystem is being created for an animal alien to our subcontinent because of which other native species will pay the price. The Asiatic cheetah and the African cheetahs are two distinctly different subspecies inhabiting historically two entirely different continents. We cannot consider to be the same by their external morphological similarities while neglecting their deep genetic differences. The debate is whether it is a good idea to introduce non-native species from different countries and invest crucial time and funds that could be used for native wilderness and conservation of local wildlife. It is quite well documented that there has been only a handful successful incidents of captive breeding of Asiatic cheetahs; hence their numbers have been declining possibly due to genetic bottlenecks such as small stock population with low genetic diversity and virulence; and they are fast  disappearing  from most of their traditional  range in Iran. Still others argue that Iran has been a complete failure in conservation due to lack of properly trained conservation experts, lack of specialists and veteneriants well experienced  in the breeding of big cats, lack of funding, focus and interest in cheetah conservation due to unstable national and international political turmoil Iran has been deeply embedded in for decades. Some wildlife experts suggest that we don’t have the space for a species like the cheetah in India.  Huge lands for grassland enclosures don’t exist here. If they did the great Indian bustard would not be critically endangered. The major factor prompting the extinction of wild Asiatic cheetahs from India has been loss of suitable habitat, prey base and over exploitation in terms of poaching and trophy hunting. If they were left in huge enclosures in a good grassland with ample prey base, constant surveillance abs monitoring, they may breed successfully under partial nature based captivity. However, there is no guarantee abs the whole project of reintroduction  of cheetahs in India could be an utter failure! 
We have many native species that can help in grassland scrubland conservation without huge enclosures; but, not as glamourous as the Asiatic cheetahs. Hence the concept of trapped animals to serve as reintroduced cheetah’s prey base can backfire. The idea of creation of an artificial  habitat for a non-native apex predatory species in a natural ecosystem suitable only for native species may not work out as is being hyped in the media and hyper conservation enthusiasts. 
The supporters of Asiatic cheetahs reintroduction has on the other hand asked the pertinent question that crippling economic sanctions against Iran or any other country deemed as not “toeing the line” only effects mostly the poor. Money gets diverted away from communities and other worthwhile activities like conservation. The people at the top will be unaffected by the sanctions. How many decades have these sanctions been going on? What has actually changed or achieved? Absolutely nothing. The poor will get poorer and cheetahs maybe well disappear forever. Hence, if Iran is repeatedly failing to protect the species which is destined for sure extinction in the not so distant future; why not partially preserve the other sub species to at least have the species protected in another continent. We may not be able to save the Asiatic cheetahs in the coming few decades; but, we can at keastcexoand the range of African cheetahs into Asia over time. What is the best solution, only time has the real answer.