Wildlife of Iran, includes leopards, bears, hyenas, wild boars, ibex, gazelles, and mouflons, which live in the wooded mountains. Jackals and rabbits are common in the country’s interior. Wild asses live in the Kavirs. Cheetahs and pheasants are found in the Caspian region, and partridges live in most parts of the country. Aquatic birds such as seagulls, ducks, and geese live on the shores of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, while buzzards nest in the desert. Deer, hedgehogs, foxes, and 22 species of rodents live in semidesert, high-elevation regions. Palm squirrels, Asiatic black bears, and tigers are found in Baluchistan. Tigers also once inhabited the forests of the Caspian region but are now assumed to be extinct.
Persian Fallow Deer
Pleske’s Ground Jay
Neurergus kaiseri (Salamaner)
The Asiatic Cheetah is now also known as the Iranian Cheetah, as the world’s last few are known to survive mostly in Iran.
DNA comparisons show that these Asiatic cheetahs split from other cheetahs, which lived in Africa, 30,000 years ago. Researchers suggest that Iran’s cheetahs must be conserved to protect the future of all cheetahs. Cheetahs formerly existed in 44 countries in Africa but are now only found in 29. Historically, they were also recorded across southwest and central Asia but can now only be found in Iran.
The Cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. The head and body of the adult Asiatic Cheetah measure from 112 to 135 cm with a tail length between 66 and 84 cm. It can weigh from 34 to 54 kg, but the male is slightly larger than the female.
Cheetahs thrive in open lands, small plains, semi-desert areas, and other open habitats where prey is available. The Asiatic Cheetah is found in the Kavir desert region of Iran, which includes parts of the Kerman, Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Tehran, and Markazi provinces. The Asiatic Cheetah also seems to survive in the dry open Baluchistan province of Pakistan where adequate prey is available. The cheetah’s habitat is under threat from desertification, increasing agriculture, residential settlements, and declining prey — caused by hunting and degradation in pastures by overgrazing from introduced livestock. Females, unlike males, do not establish a territory, which means they “travel” within their habitats. This is an important attribute to consider in conservation.
The Asiatic Cheetah is a rare critically endangered subspecies of the Cheetah found today only in Iran, with some occasional sightings in Baluchistan, Pakistan. It lives in its vast central desert in fragmented pieces of remaining suitable habitat. In recent times in the last century this once numerous and common animal was driven to extinction elsewhere in its entire former range in Southwest Asia from Arabia to India including Afghanistan; latest research shows that only 70 to 100 Asiatic Cheetahs are estimated to remain, most of them in Iran. This is the result of continuous field surveys, all of which have been verified by the results of more than 12,000 nights of camera trapping inside its fragmented Iranian desert habitats during the past 10 years. The Asiatic Cheetah, the Eurasian Lynx and the Persian Leopard are the only remaining species of large cats in Iran today with the once common Caspian Tiger having already been driven to extinction in the last century.
Together with the United Nations Development Program, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society the Iranian Department of the Environment has established a program to make conservation of the Asiatic cheetah a national priority. Conservationists are concerned that time is running out for Iran’s cheetahs.
The Persian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica) is a rare ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. Its taxonomic status is disputed, with some maintaining it as a subspecies of the Fallow Deer, while other treat it as a separate species, Dama mesopotamica.
The Persian fallow deer differ from their European counterparts in one very prominent characteristics. The European males have palmate antlers which are their ‘trademark’. By contrast the Mesos have regular tines. How tis is known, not from the few animals left in Iran in the wild, after all this small nucleus represents a very small fraction of an entire population spread throughout the fertile crescent. As such, the animals existing today may just be a morph. However, there is documentation.
The picture below is a mosaic floor from an old synagogue in the ancient town of Zipori in northern Galilee in Israel, dating back to the year 400 AD. In this beautiful work of art, a leopard is depicted taking down a fallow deer (as is evident by the white spots.)
Persian fallow deer are bigger than Fallow Deer, their antlers bigger and less palmated. Actually the Persian fallow deer is the largest of the fallow deer, weighing 40-100 kg (90 – 220 lb.). It occupies woodland habitat. The diet of fallow deer varies by season and includes grass, nuts and leaves. Fallow deer live in herds, with males establishing territories during the breeding season.
The Persian fallow deer previously occurred in North Africa from the Tunisian border to the Red Sea and in Asia from Syria and Jordan to Iraq and western Iran. It was hunted to extinction over most of its range, with the advent of modern firearms having accelerating this process. By 1951 it was thought to have become extinct, but in 1955 a limited number were found in a dense forested region in Iran, near the border with Iraq. This population persisted despite continued hunting and habitat destruction at least until the 1980’s. Recently, conflict between Iran and Iraq has made it difficult to determine the deer’s status.
The Persian fallow deer occupies a range of woodlands, such as tamarisk, oak andpistachio woodlands. The wild population utilizes riparian forest thickets.
The Persian fallow deer is principally a grazer, with grass accounting for over 60% of its diet in summer. In the fall the proportion of fruits such as nuts increases. In the winter, the fallow deer browses on leaves.
For now, they are nearly extinct today, inhabiting only a small habitat in Khuzestan, southern Iran, two rather small protected areas in Mazandaran (northern Iran), an island in Lake Urmia in north-western Iran, and in some parts of Iraq and Israel. They were formerly found from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the Cyrenaica and Cyprus. The existing population may be suffering from inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity. Persian Fallow Deer had been considered extinct in 1951, before a small population was discovered in Khuzestan. About 365 animals are estimated to represent the world population.
Reproduction and Group structure
The Persian fallow deer lives in herds. During the breeding season the males establish territories. The rut is during August and early September, and calving at the end of March to early April, following a gestation period of approximately 229 days.
The Pleske’s Ground Jay or Persian Ground Jay (Podoces pleskei) is a species of bird in the Corvidae family. It is endemic to Iran.
Iranian Ground Jay (Podoces pleskei) or Pleske’s ground jay is one of the well known native species of deserts of the Caspio-Central Asian desert and to be specific; native to deserts alongside extreme east borders of Iran. The closer you get to the eastern central deserts of Iran the better chance of observing them you stand. One might mistake Iranian ground jay with Hoopoe Lark, But the coloring and plumage on Iranian ground jay is unique with no crest like Hoopoe Larks’, only the look similar in shape and posture. Black bib is the key to distinguish Pleske’s but lack of black bib on Juv. ground jays might be misleading. the distribution is known to be desert depressions of eastern Iran, mostly border habitats in Dusht-e-Lut of Khorasan and extreme Kerman. Northern most record from northern Semnan, south to Iranian Baluchistan.
Ground jays or ground choughs belong to a distinct group of the passerine order of birds in the genus Podoces of the crow family Corvidae. They inhabit high altitude semi-desert areas from central Asia to Mongolia(All 4 species, while pleske’s distribution is limited to eastern Iranian borders).
Ground jays show adaptations to ground living such as long, strong legs adapted to fast running and the ability to leap and bound onto boulders and rocks with great agility. Their long, curved thick bills are adapted for digging and probing.
While capable of flight (which they do infrequently and relatively weakly), they prefer running, and will readily perch on trees and bushes also.
Could occur over border into Pakistani Baluchistan, perhaps even western Afghanistan. pleske’s ground jay habitat is mostly semi-desertous plains with Zygophyllum atriplicoides known as “TAAGH” in persian (farsi) language.
pleske’s ground jay is common in Kerman Province and seen always in Shahr-e-Babak area. not through recent years though due to habitat loss. pleske’s ground jay’s name is “ZAGH-e-BOOR” in persian and natives call it “Soose’ le’ng” which drives from it’s jack hammer type of feeding while scavenging at the roadsides. they happen to search for where ever Zygophyllum steppe occurs as in eastern border of Iran and borders of Caspio-Central asian desert. If Zygophyllum is the scrub which grows to a hight of 0.5-1.5 m tall, with twisted, rather thick and juicy branches and small spoon-shaped leaves, few of which remained on the plants in autumn. It sometimes makes relatively thick growths. pleske’s ground jay is active in habitats with more visible sand. They are active during dun and dusk, avoiding the noon heat.
The nest looks bushy like a magpie’s but quiet deeper cone shaped, being as big but using thin branches compared to magpie’s.
Pleske’s ground jay usualy lay four small eggs, each one inch long(to my estimate), light cream colored mottled with reddish brown dots.
Feeds in spring mainly on insects. Later in the year takes also grains and seeds. Known to hide food. Usually seen in pairs or in families of up to 6 birds and the breeding season starts in March. They build a spherical nest, camouflaged by a layer of interwoven twigs, among small shrubs. 3-6 pale blue-green eggs are laid. Only the female incubates, for 17-19 days, and the male feeds her while she is on the nest. The chicks grow fast, two weeks after hatching they are feathered.
A resident species with some dispersal movements in winter.
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least.
Everyone knows the tiger, the panda, the blue whale, but what about the other five to thirty million species estimated to inhabit our Earth? Many of these marvelous, stunning, and rare species have received little attention from the media, conservation groups, and the public. This series is an attempt to give these ‘forgotten species’ some well-deserved attention.
The salamander was a mythical creature before it was a real one: the word salamander means a legendary lizard that both survived-in and could extinguish fire. A creature that the Ancient Greeks, including Aristotle, appeared to readily believe in.
No one knows how the term salamander transferred from a mythical fire-dwelling monster to the small amphibious animals it applies to today. Perhaps the sight of salamanders like Luristan newt—charcoal-black and flame-orange—caused people in the seventeenth century to lend the name of myth to the taxa. Native to a tiny river region in the Zagros mountains of Iran, the Luristan newt Neurergus kaiseri stuns everyone who works with it.
Neurergus kaiseri is the smallest of the Neurergus species, with an adult length of 10-14 cm. Sparreboom et al. (1999) describe the coloration of this species as “unique and rich in contrast, with a mosaic of black and white patches and orange-red dorsal stripe, legs and belly.”
The sexes can be differentiated by the anatomy of the cloaca, with the male having an enlarged, rounded cloacal region, and the female having a volcano-shaped cloaca. However, these differences are clearly visible only during the breeding season. Outside of the breeding season, it may be impossible to distinguish between the sexes.
The morphology of the skull and vertebrae reveal significant differences between N. kaiseri and N. strauchii, but greater similarity between N. kaiseri and Triturus alpestris. Evolutionary analysis based on DNA reveals that the 4 Neurergus species are monophyletic (a single lineage), and their nearest relatives are the Triturus and Euproctus.
Natural Range and Habitat
N. kaiseri are native to the Luristan Province of Iran, at an altitude of 750-1200 m (2400-4000 ft). Unlike the other Neurergus, which live in cold climates and inhabit cold mountain streams, N. kaiseri come from a hot dry climate. They reproduce in winter during periods of rain, which are followed by long periods of hot dry weather in which the animals estivate. It is estimated that water is present in their habitat for 3 months of the year or less. Unlike the other Neurergus, N. kaiseri are reported to use ponds and vernal pools, in addition to streams. However, their wild habitat has not been well studied.
Behavior and history in captivity
N. kaiseri have a reputation for being a shy, skittish species. Their movement on land resembles that of lizards more that that of typical salamanders. When aquatic, however, the animals usually lose their flighty behavior and may even beg for food. Wild-caught adults are generally more shy than their captive-bred counterparts. The animals generally avoid light and are active in low light and at night.
When terrestrial, the newts spend the day under the lower hides and at night will forage for food amongst upper hides and open spaces. They have a preference for perching high and are very active soon after the lights are turned out. The water dish is used frequently and the animals are often seen taking a quick soak. They are very gregarious towards one another and will often be found huddled together under a single hide. Intra specific aggression is not a problem.
In recent years (2005-2008) there have been illegal exports of N. kaiseri from the wild into the pet trade. Given the endangered status of the species, it is likely that this distribution of wild-caught animals has had a serious impact on wild populations. Many of these wild-caught animals have died from infections within a short time after purchase.
As of 2005, the IUCN Redbook listed N. kaiseri as Critically Endangered. The Global Amphibian Assessment cites the following evidence: “its extent of occurrence is less than 100 km2, its area of occupancy is less than 10 km2, its populations are severely fragmented, and there is a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, as well as a decline in the number of mature individuals due to over harvesting for the illegal pet trade”. It is believed that less than 1000 adults exist in nature.According to the Red List the population has dropped by 80 percent in less than a decade due to collection for the pet trade
In light of the endangered status of these animals, it is critically important that the animals now in captivity be bred, and that hobbyists resist the temptation to buy wild-caught animals. We hope that this care sheet will help in the establishment of stable captive breeding groups. We encourage all breeders to participate in studbooks and to correspond with other breeders.
The Luristan Newt is a candidate for CITES listing. There is also a breeding program for the Luristan Newt at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Iran is planning on starting its own breeding program.