Death of Pirouz, Iran’s only Asiatic cheetah cub, sparks fresh anti-regime criticism

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Iran’s regime is facing backlash and criticism on social media following the death of Pirouz, the country’s only Asiatic cheetah cub who died on Tuesday from kidney failure. Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic saw Pirouz’s death as yet another show of incompetence by the authorities.

“Pirouz who was admitted to the Central Veterinary Hospital due to kidney failure last Thursday, died after undergoing dialysis,” the official IRNA news agency said.

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“The loss of Pirouz and ineffectiveness of all the efforts made by the treatment team in the past few days to save the animal saddens me and all my colleagues, and we apologize to everyone that we could not keep this animal alive,” hospital director Omid Moradi told IRNA.

Pirouz, meaning “victorious” in Persian, had become a source of national pride since its birth in May last year at a wildlife refuge in northeastern Iran.

Two other cubs born with him died that same month, but Pirouz survived at a time when only a dozen members of the species are left in the wild.

The death of Pirouz has struck a chord with many Iranians, who feel that their rulers’ incompetence and mismanagement have contributed to the cub’s demise.

As the country experiences protests and a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the regime, the loss of Pirouz has become a symbol of the larger issues at play.

Actor and activist Nazanin Boniadi blamed the regime for Pirouz’s death, noting the Islamic Republic’s targeting of conservationists.

“Shame on the Islamic Republic for imprisoning conservationists instead of rewarding them for their crucial work,” wrote Boniadi wrote on Twitter following the news of Pirouz’s death.

In 2020, an Iranian appeals court upheld jail sentences of up to 10 years against eight environmentalists convicted of spying, conspiring with the US and damaging national security.

Iranian journalist Saman Rasoulpour described Pirouz as a “victim of the hell that the Islamic Republic has created for humans, animals and the environment (in Iran).”

“A better funded program would have probably kept him alive,” Amir Toumaj, an expert on Iran, wrote on Twitter.

The Asiatic cheetah -- Acinonyx jubatus venaticus -- is threatened with “dangerous ongoing decline,” according to data cited by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

According to a 2017 study referenced by IUCN, the sub-species is confined only to Iran where there were “less than 50 mature individuals.”

They are still found in parts of southern Africa but have practically disappeared from North Africa and Asia.

Iran began a United Nations-supported cheetah protection program in 2001.

In January 2022, deputy environment minister Hassan Akbari said Iran was home to only a dozen Asiatic cheetahs -- down from an estimated 100 in 2010.

Iran’s environment department had hoped the birth of the cubs in captivity would help increase the cheetah population.

With AFP

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