The wildlife of Iran includes its flora and fauna and their natural habitats. As a result of the different climactic and ecological areas, Iran boasts a broad selection of flora and fauna. The fauna can be broken down by the regions they inhabit; namely forests and woodlands, semi-desert, desert lowlands, steppe, arid mountains and salted alluvial marshes. The fauna consists of 194 species of mammals, 534 species of birds, 216 species of reptiles, 20 species of amphibians and 180 species of fresh water fish for a total of 1144 species. According to the IUCN, 78 of the species are considered threatened, including 17 of the mammals, 20 of the birds, 9 of the reptiles, 4 of the amphibians and 28 of the fish.
There are 254 areas under the protection and management of the Department of Environment which are broken down as follows: 27 national parks, 42 wildlife refuges, 150 protected areas and 35 national natural monuments. Together they make up 10.13 percent of the country’s land area. Protecting and managing such a large area is a major challenge.
One of the most famous members of wildlife in Iran are the world’s last surviving, critically endangered Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) also known as the Iranian cheetah, which are today found nowhere else but in Iran. Iran had lost all its elephants, lions and tigers by the 21st century.
Unfortunately, the threat to the wildlife of Iran is there, and the situation for rare species is dangerous.
Here are some of the species belong to the wild life of Iran:
The Persian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica)
The largest leopard subspecies in the world and now endangered throughout its range. The Asiatic cheetah survives in protected areas in the eastern-central arid region of Iran, where the human population density is very low. Between December 2011 and November 2013, 84 individuals were sighted in 14 different protected areas, and 82 individuals were identified from camera trap photographs. As of December 2017, fewer than 50 individuals are thought to be remaining in three subpopulations that are scattered over 140,000 km2 (54,000 sq. m) in Iran’s central plateau. The Asiatic cheetah separated from its African relative between 32,000 and 67,000 years ago. During the British colonial times in India it was called hunting leopard, a name derived from the ones that were kept in captivity in large numbers by Indian royalty to use for hunting wild antelopes. The Asiatic cheetah has a buff- to light fawn-colored fur that is paler on the sides, on the front of the muzzle, below the eyes and inner legs. Small black spots are arranged in lines on the head and nape, but irregularly scattered on body, legs, paws and tail. The tail tip has black stripes. The coat and mane are shorter than of African cheetah subspecies. The head and body of an adult Asiatic cheetah measure about 112–135 cm (44–53 in) with a 66–84 cm (26–33 in) long tail. It weighs about 34–54 kg (75–119 lb). Males are slightly larger than the females.
The Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica)
This species is unique to Mesopotamia and its natural habitat is around the two rivers of Karkheh and Dez in Khuzestan province. This mammal of Iran was thought to be extinct by the 1940s until a very small population of possibly 25 individuals was rediscovered in Khuzestan a decade later. A number of intensive conservation measures since the 1960s have brought the species back from the brink of extinction.
Caracal (Caracal caracal)
The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. The caracal is characterized by a robust build, long legs, a short face, long tufted ears and long canine teeth. This elusive member of the cat family, now considered threatened in most of its Asiatic range.
Asiatic black bear or the Baluchistan bear (Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus)
This Asiatic bear has a similar appearance to its better-known American relative (the American black bear, Ursus americanus) with a stocky body, round head and large ears. The black coat is shaggy and there is a ruff of longer hairs around the neck. There is a crescent-shaped yellow/cream marking on the chest, which has led to this bear being called the ‘moon bear’ in some areas.
It is estimated that less than 200 individuals exist in the southeast of Iran.
Onager or the Iranian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus onager)
This unique subspecies of the Wild Ass is currently restricted to the two populations in Touran National Park and Bahramgour Reserve (IUCN RedList) and outside of Iran to 5 introduced animals in Saudi Arabia.
Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar)
The chukar partridge or chukar (Alectoris chukar) is a Eurasian upland gamebird in the pheasant family Phasianidae. This partridge has well marked black and white bars on the flanks and a black band running from the forehead across the eye and running down the head to form a necklace that encloses a white throat. The species has been introduced into many other places and feral populations have established themselves in parts of North America and New Zealand. This bird can be found in parts of Middle East.
Despite being under pressure in many areas, this species has been able to survive due to its amazing ability to inhabitant hard to reach and inaccessible mountainous areas.
Black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis)
Black-neck grebes reside in a number of resident populations in Iran and many more visit the country in the winter. These birds use floating platforms of aquatic vegetation as nets.
Houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata)
A specialist of arid conditions, and vulnerable to extinction. Its population has declined rapidly over the past two decades, largely due to unsustainable hunting and habitat degradation.