CCF Statement on Jailed Conservationists in Iran

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Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is very concerned about the situation in Iran. Our fellow conservationists, eight Iranian women and men, Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Houman Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Sam Rajabi, and Morad Tahbaz, are respected professionals who work to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, now found only in Iran. We estimate fewer than 50 of these cats remain in the wild. Compare this to just three years ago, when the number was put at almost double, just under 100. We would not know as much about these animals, their movement across the landscape, the amount of available prey, or their rapid decline without the use of a camera trap, a basic tool in every field conservationist’s kit. To know our colleagues have been accused of crimes because of its use is deeply troubling.

In Namibia, CCF has deployed numerous camera trap surveys in its studies of the southern African cheetah population over the past two decades. Our scientists can attest to the value of this technology. Camera traps help us understand how the cheetah lives and how they move throughout their home ranges. They help us estimate not only their numbers but the available prey base as well. They also help us determine where there may be conflict with human communities, so we can direct our limited resources to those areas to mitigate. We credit this technology with helping us understand more about the population of cheetahs in Namibia, which has helped us stop the decline and stabilize our population. Given the dire situation of the Asiatic cheetah, all available technology used in conservation must be deployed to help save them. This is what our esteemed colleagues in Iran, now on trial for using this effective device, believe, too.

The Asiatic cheetah once roamed the continent of Asia, but now it is a precious resource belonging only to Iran. By using all available tools and technology in the pursuit of scientific knowledge to save the Asiatic cheetah, these eight conservation biologists are protecting Iran state interests.

We respectfully ask the Iranian government to reconsider their position. We want to work together to prevent our natural resources from being lost. A less biodiverse planet is less healthy for all species, including humans, and once a species is lost, it is lost forever. Please release our colleagues today so they can assist in our fight to save the Asiatic cheetah. We do not have much more time.

Dr. Laurie Marker
Founder and Executive Director

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