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    Description

    Effective conservation solutions for small and isolated wildlife populations depend on identifying and preserving critical biological corridors and dispersal routes. With a worldwide population of ≤70 individuals, the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah Acinonyx jubatus venaticus persists in several fragmented nuclei in Iran. Connectivity between nuclei is crucial for the survival of this subspecies, but detailed information to guide conservation actions is lacking. We developed a resistance surface that predicted cost of cheetah movement as functions of topographical complexity, human development, surface water and landscape protection level. We predicted alternative models for the landscape connectivity of Asiatic cheetahs, considering the combination of relative landscape resistance and different dispersal ability scenarios. We predicted that core connected habitat patches are concentrated in three sub-regions, and within these sub-regions, populations were predicted to be broken up into two to eight isolated patches, depending on the dispersal ability scenario. Despite the achievements of recent conservation initiatives, long-term survival of the Asiatic cheetah in Iran is threatened by the combination of its small population size and fragmented distribution. We propose that conservation of the Asiatic cheetah urgently requires integrated landscape-level management to reduce mortality risk, protect core areas and corridors, and ultimately establish steppingstone populations to integrate this fragmented population.

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    Citation

    Moqanaki, E. M.; Cushman, S. A. 2016. All roads lead to Iran: Predicting landscape connectivity of the last stronghold for the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah. Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/acv.12281.

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    Keywords

    animal movement, connectivity, corridor, dispersal, landscape resistance, Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, Asiatic cheetah, fragmentation

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