The rare Asiatic cheetah, already severely endangered, may be in greater danger of extinction than ever before, as conservationists say only two females of the species are known to survive in the only country where it exists: Iran.
Only 40 Asiatic cheetahs remain in the wild, all of them in Iran, the Guardian reports. Conservationists worry that without an adequate female population, they may not be around much longer.
“The situation is very critical,” Morteza Eslami, head of Tehran-based NGO Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) told the Guardian, adding that five years of monitoring have revealed that female numbers in particular have “significantly dropped.”
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Despite Iran’s efforts to raise awareness about the animal — through representations on stamps and even the national football team’s attire — 48 cheetahs have died in the country over the past 15 years. Of those, 21 have been killed by farmers, 15 in car accidents, seven from natural causes and five by hunters.
A third female is reportedly in captivity at the Pardisan Park research center in Tehran, but has not yet mated with the male she shares the center with.