Reserves For The Caspian Subspecies


Though it is almost certain the Caspian tiger is extinct, probably having disappeared in the late 1940s, occasional claims of sightings come from the more remote forested areas of Turkmenistan and from Afghanistan. It is even said pug marks have been spotted here, but no substantiated evidence has come to light and it's much more likely the tiger sightings are Persian leopards.

Though there is a sometimes quoted killing of a Caspian at Uludere, Turkey in 1970, the accuracy of reports such as these is unknown and this area is anything but a reserve. In fact, it is best known for fighting between the Turkish army and the Kurdish guerrillas. The mortar fire heard in this area means it is certainly not a situation suitable for any possible remaining tigers.

The Caspian sea coast, which used to be rich with animals, (including tigers) is now mostly quiet. There is only one significant National Park which could hold a slim chance of still having Caspians. This tiny hope is Iran?s oldest, and possibly its finest, National Park. Golestan covers the lush forests of the Caspian lowlands and the semi-arid steppes of northern Khorasan.

Over 150 species of bird occupy the area. This includes several types of vulture: the Egyptian, the bearded, the Eurasian griffon and the Eurasian black. Golden eagles are another important bird in the locality.

The Bearded Vulture, Lamb Vulture, Lammergeier, Lammergeyer or Lammergeir is heavily endangered. The exact population is unknown, but farmers have shot and poisoned the bird almost to the edge of extinction. Bearded Vultures have frequently been accused attacking lambs, chamois, and even children. None of these is correct  and this bird feeds primarily on the remains left by other vultures. Their specialty is breaking and eating bones by dropping them onto rocks from a great height. They employ the same practice on tortoises to prepare them for eating.

The ancient Greek playwright Aechylus died suddenly when a tortoise fell on his bald head. Though naturalist Pliny wrote it was dropped by an eagle this was thought to be a myth until someone sighted a Bearded Vulture dropping a tortoise. It is now thought a Bearded Vulture mistook the writer's head for a rock.

Mammals at Golestan include brown bear, jackals, Persian ibex, wild cats, leopards, deer, wild boar, gazelle, mountain goats, foxes, cheetah and coyotes. It is probably stretching things to say there are still tigers here, as despite occasional reports of the Caspian being seen the last reliable report was 30 years ago. The area still suffers from unauthorized hunting which has seen a significant reduction in the wildlife.  

Caspian Tiger Reserves - Golestan | Hirkan

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Photography With Thanks To Linda Schueller (Photo 1)
Rebecca Willey (Photo 2)
Erich Mangl (Photo 3)
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