While Iran may be most well-known for its beautiful architecture, scrumptious food and warm hospitality, it is also home to some of the most unique animals on the planet. In Iran’s expansive and varied environment, visitors are able to go on exciting safaris in search of the incredible animals that call Iran home.
For thousands of years, a huge variety of creatures have been native to Iran. From big cats such as the cheetah, to tiny birds and mice, Iran has long been a nature lover’s paradise.
Sadly, a number of Iran’s native species have become extinct for reasons including poaching and habitat destruction. Sadly, Syrian Elephants, Persian Lions and Caspian Tigers have been lost forever due to extinction.
Luckily, today every effort is being made to try to protect, preserve and grow the animal population in Iran. Due to Iran’s good fortune in having so much diversity of fauna, industries of all kinds (including tourism) are working hard to protect these species. Part of protecting them is to teach both locals and visitors about the fascinating animals in Iran, and how to protect them for future generations.
What animals are native to Iran?
Within Iran, visitors can find an incredibly varied range of large and small animals, some of which are totally unique to Iran. You may have heard of Africa’s ‘big 5’ of must-see animals in Africa – here is our “Iranian Big 5”:
The rarest animal in Iran is perhaps the Iranian Cheetah. This elusive yet enticing big cat is found nowhere else in the world, being the very last of its species on the planet. Sadly, today the Iranian Cheetah is considered critically endangered, with only 50 – 100 of the species left.
Iranian Cheetahs are different to their African cousins – they are smaller and slimmer. They are certainly not any slower, however, and can reach speeds of up to 100km per hour in just a few hours.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of this beautiful creature, the best place is Khar Turan National Park. It is hoped that further education and awareness about the Iranian Cheetah can help protect the species from extinction.
If you like to read more about this wonderful animal we have a page dedicated to them on our Iranian Cheetah page.
Persian Fallow Deer
Thought to originate from Cyprus thousands of years ago, the Persian Fallow Deer is a unique type of deer that was once found all over Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel and Iran. Today, its population has dwindled and it can only be found in a couple of places.
The most number of deer are found in Iran, and in fact it is the only place to still be home to deer that were actually born in the wild. It is thought that today there are about 250 wild deer in Iran, although their shyness makes it hard to get exact numbers.
The two best places to see the Persian Fallow Deer are the Karkeh and Dez Wildlife Refuges in south-western Iran. There is also a small population in Mazandaran, in the northern part of Iran.
Pleske’s Ground Jay
A much smaller creature is the cute little Pleskhe’s Ground Jay, an adorable bird endemic to Iran. Here, there are many small ground jays waiting to be spotted by eager tourists.
They are a sandy brown in colour, making them well suited to hiding from predators in the desert. They also have strong legs which are good for jumping and running (which they generally prefer to flying!), and a strong sharp beak that allows them to easily dig for snacks in the sand or dirt.
While there are many Ground Jays in Iran, they are found especially near the eastern central desert region.
Perhaps the most strikingly coloured of our “Iranian Big 5” is neurergus kaiseri, also known as ‘Kaiser’s Spotted Newt’. This small reptile is big on colour, with a striking orange, black and white skin.
These reptiles are actually salamanders, and while they have become popular pets in many parts of the world, they are native to Iran and live in a small area. Despite efforts to conserve them, unfortunately their population has decreased over the years and their total population is thought to be in the thousands.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of these cute little creatures, they are found almost exclusively in the Zagros Mountains in western Iran.
Another elegant big cat found almost exclusively in Iran is the beautiful Persian Leopard. The Leopard has a gorgeous golden coat, and is one of the largest leopard subspecies in the world.
Today, there is estimated to be less than 1,300 Persian Leopards left in the wild. Over 800 of these reside in Iran, so it is the premiere worldwide destination to try to see a glimpse of these stunning creatures.
Though Persian Leopards are found in 20 out of 21 provinces, the best place to see them is the Central Alborz Region in the country.