A female Asian leopard has given birth to three cubs in Iran, the first captive of this endangered cat species, the official agency reported Sunday.
The IRNA quoted Ali Salazgeh, Iran’s head of the environment department, as saying that “three leopards were born healthy by caesarean section” at the Turan Wildlife Sanctuary in the Semenan province, east of Tehran.
“Since this is the first calf of a captive Asian leopard, the leopard population can be increased by caring for the cubs,” he said.
“Early veterinary care was provided and now the condition of the mother and baby is normal, but they are still in intensive care,” the official said.
According to him, less than 20 Asian cheetahs have been found so far in the various Iranian provinces where the animal lives.
In January, Iran’s deputy environment minister said there were only a dozen Asian cheetahs in the country, also known as Iranian cheetahs.
The leopard is the fastest animal in the world, traveling at 120 km per hour. These cat species once roamed from eastern India to the Atlantic coast of Senegal and beyond. They are still found in some parts of South Africa, but have all but disappeared from North Africa and Asia.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the subspecies ‘Azinonix jubatus venaticus’, commonly known as the Asiatic leopard, is endangered.
Iran, one of the last countries in the world where Asian cheetahs live in the wild, launched a UN-backed conservation program in 2001. In 2014, the Iranian football team wore a leopard toy on its World Cup shirts.