The Asian cheetah previously had been a usual animal all over the plain areas of Central Asia, but it practically disappeared from the wild as a
Some small population still exists in Iran: there is some oral information on existence of more or less stable population of Asian cheetah in Iran in the deserts
It is still possible to restore cheetah in the ecosystems of Central Asia. But for that it is necessary to start with special regime of protection of the areas of future restoration, restoration of the prey species' populations (ungulates first of all) and preparation of a group of cheetah for releasing in the wild. Turkmenistan can be the area of reintroduction, as it had been the last area in Central Asia, where cheetah survived — and it unites cheetah habitats in Central Asia and Iran.
WWF cat specialists suggested to return to the discussion of the cheetah reintroduction. It was suggested to have an expedition in order to see, whether reintroduction is possible, what areas are the best for that, what need to be done. Such an expedition was funded by WWF Netherlands in 2002, and leading cat experts from IUCN participated in it.
Conclusions of the survey are rather optimistic. Habitats suitable for cheetah are situated in the
The possibilities are more realistic in Badkhyz and
A very important question of any species restoration project — sources of animals for reintroduction. There are two possible approaches for the restoration of cheetah as a species in the ecosystems (and fauna) of Central Asia: releasing of pure Asian cheetah (which live now only in Iran) or releasing of African cheetah. Recently the Iranian population is too small and difficult to access, so it is hardly possible to use a part of these animals for reintroduction. And there are practically no Asian cheetah anywhere in captivity. African cheetah are numerous both in the wild and in captivity, there are groups which can be easily used for releasing. But Asian and African cheetah are considered to be different subspecies — although the phenotype is very similar. Their difference or similarity could be checked by genetic studies — but such a research is questionable as well, as hardly any pure Asiatic cheetah are now accessible for such an investigation. It is obvious, that any proposal on the releasing of African cheetah in Central Asia would demand special discussions, and special decision of the leading international experts. But we should always remember that in reality we face a dilemma — either to loose cheetah as a species in the ecosystems of Central Asia, or to restore it using animals belonging to African subspecies.