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Asiatic Cheetahs Turn to Domestic Livestock as Forest Prey Decline

Sep 26, 2012 07:40 AM EDT

Asiatic cheetahs have turned to feed on domestic livestock in habitats where there are less prey, reveals a new study.

The cheetahs, which were once found distributed across several Asian countries, are now found only in Iran. The population of Asiatic cheetahs is so small that there are only 70 of them in the wild, and that too only in Iran, reported BBC.

With the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) already declaring the status of the cheetah species as critically endangered, a team of researchers in Iran have now found that the animal has resorted to preying on domestic livestock for their survival.

A significant population decline in big mammals such as sheep and gazelle as a result of poaching has caused the cheetahs to opt for domestic prey, pointed out the researchers.

In the past, studies suggested that the cheetahs in Iran could possibly survive by consuming small prey like hare and rodents. However, the new research team have declined such claims and said that the cheetahs have actually begun to prey on livestock that come for grazing, apart from consuming other small prey.

Earlier lands nearby the cheetah population were announced as a game reserve in order to use it for conservation purposes, but were later opened for communities, wherein the herders brought their live stock for grazing. This has forced the prey to move out, thus forcing the cheetahs to feed on the domestic animals.

"After the revolution the game reserves, which were sacrosanct before, were opened up to the communities," Dr Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, who was part of the study, told BBC.

"[The cheetahs] are in game reserves and in the game reserves there's been a large influx of herders bringing their livestock, which have reduced the land space for where the prey can be and so the prey gets pushed out," he said.

Experts suggested that anti-poaching regulations have to be enforced and the land to be declared as no-grazing zones so as to allow the cheetahs to have access to their prey.

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