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An Asian cheetah has given birth to cubs at a plant in Iran, marking the first time the species reproduced in captivity, according to the Iranian Cheetah Society.
Three young cheetahs were welcomed into the world at the Asian Cheetah Breeding Center in the Turan Biosphere Reserve in Tehran, according to a May 1 news release from Iran’s Department of Environment.
The mother of the cheetah, named Iran, gave birth to her cubs via caesarean section, and then the babies went on intensive care, the press release states.
One of the pups died on May 4 due to malformations in the left lung and pulmonary adhesion, according to Dr. Behrang Ekrami, a veterinarian at the Asian Cheetah Breeding Center.
It was originally announced that the cheetahs were all females, but upon closer inspection, it was determined that they are males.
Researchers rescued mother cheetah in December 2017 after finding her in a house in Iran as an 8-month-old, according to Jamshid Parchizadeh, a graduate researcher at The Global Wildlife Conservation Center and a doctoral student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. It is believed that pet dealers planned to smuggle her, he added.
Conservationists slowly began introducing her to an Asian hanging horse, Firouz, in 2021. He had been captured in Turan National Park to mate with her in captivity.
The two eventually mated on January 24, 2022, and continued to mate a total of 17 times in the following days, according to the Iranian Cheetah Society.
Because the cheetah showed she can give birth, it means she is likely to be fertile for the next five years, Dr. Ali Selajgeh, head of Iran’s environment ministry, in a press release.
Asian cheetahs once roamed through Central Asia from the Middle East to Russia, but have now only been seen in Iran, according to the International Society for Endangered Cats Canada.
They have largely been wiped out by hunting, habitat loss and fewer prey due to people overhunting them, the organization said. There are now only 12 Asian cheetahs estimated to be left in the wild, the Iranian Cheetah Society noted in a press release. However, that number does not include kids, the organization added.
As they are a critically endangered species, this breeding effort is of utmost importance, according to Parchizadeh.
Researchers named the female cheetah Iran as a cub because “they believed she could give birth to cubs in the near future and these cubs would be able to increase the number of Asian cheetah populations, which could be a great hope for the people of Iran and the state of Iran, ”Parchizadeh said via email.
This cheetah is very similar to its African cousins, he added. They can both reach speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers), according to One Earth.
However, the Asian cheetah is lighter in color and has a thicker coat, Parchizadeh said.