Iran, although largely a desert country, is home to all manners and variety of animals, including many native mammals. The latter includes such species as the wild goat, Dorcas gazelle, and Indian desert jird. In total, there are over 190 mammal species in Iran. Of these mammal species, 6 are endangered, 17 are vulnerable, and 2 are critically endangered. Five species are near threatened due to human activities. Below we look at a few of the native mammals of Iran.
The wild goat (Capra aegagrus) is the ancestor of the modern domestic goat. It can be found in rocky and mountainous areas where they live in groups of up to 15 individuals. The male wild goats are solitary while the females live in groups and small flocks together with the young ones. In Iran, the wild goat is found in rocky and mountainous places including cliffs along the seashore. They can also be found in the central desert and in deciduous forested areas in the north.
The Williams' Jerboa (Allactaga williamsi) is a small hopping rodent that is commonly found in desert areas. It is native to Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It has long hind feet and short forelegs that look similar to a pair of hands to assist in feeding. The long tails act as support when standing and also provides more stability. The Williams’ Jerboa is a nocturnal rodent that feeds on insects and plant remains. The main predator is the long-eared owl found in Turkey. The main threat to its existence is the loss of habitat through cultivated land.
The Dorcas gazelle is quite similar in appearance to the common gazelle (Gazella gazelle), although it is smaller in size and has more of a curve in its horns. It has a pale fawn colored coat and a white underside that is bordered by a brown stripe. It has a length of 90 to 110 centimeters and a shoulder height of 55 to 65 centimeters. These gazelles feed on flowers, pods and leaves of Acacia trees and other bushes. They prefer feeding in the night so as to minimize risk from predators such as cheetahs, wolves, and hyenas. According to the 2003 International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, it was classified as a vulnerable species.
The European beaver (Castor fiber) is one of the most industrious mammals and also one of the largest rodents in the world. It dwells in wetland habitats and is well adapted to such conditions by having a wide torso and stubby legs which are ideal for dwelling in water. The hind feet are webbed to allow it to swim. The European beaver is distributed across Europe and can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams.
Indian Desert Jird
The Indian Desert jird (Meriones hurrianae) is mainly found in the Indian Thar Desert. They are closely related to gerbils and can be found in southeastern Iran, Pakistan, and northwestern India. These mammals prefer living in firm soils as opposed to sand dunes and rocky outcrops. The jirds live in burrows and feed on seeds, grass, insects, roots, and nuts.
Other native mammals of Iran include the Egyptian Tomb Bat, Brandt's Hedgehog, Afghan Pika, Northern Palm Squirrel, and Dugong.