Snow Leopards, 32 Other Species Receive Protection in Afghanistan

Snow leopards, wolves, Marco Polo sheep, and brown bears are among 33 endangered and threatened species that have gained the protection of the Afghanistan Government, the country’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) has announced.

snow leopard.jpg

Snow Leopard photo by Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

The listing of protected species–20 mammals, seven birds, four plants, an amphibian, and an insect–provides legal protection to Afghanistan’s wildlife, which have been devastated by more than 30 years of conflict, said the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

NEPA, WCS (with funding from USAID), Kabul University, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, created the Afghanistan Wildlife Executive Committee (AWEC) to facilitate the listing, the first of its kind in Afghanistan.


Marco Polo sheep Photo by Stephane Ostrowski/WCS

“In July 2008, AWEC began evaluations of species such as the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, and Asiatic black bear,” WCS said in a statement. “To make status determinations, AWEC and WCS worked with world experts to obtain the most recent and accurate information available for Afghanistan and the region, and then evaluated those data using scientific criteria established by the global authority on species listing: the IUCN Red List.”

The list of protected Afghanistan wildlife may be expanded to as many as 70 species by the end of the year, WCS added.


Asiatic Black bear Photo by WCS

“The Wildlife Conservation Society commends the Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency for showing a continued commitment to conserving its natural heritage–even during these challenging times,” said Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of WCS.

“WCS believes that conservation can often serve as diplomacy, and we are optimistic that this commitment to conservation will benefit all of Afghanistan’s people.”


Pallas Cat photo by Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

The snow leopard and other species are under pressure from excessive hunting, loss of key habitat and illegal trade.

Snow leopard pelts for sale in tourist shops sell for as much as $1,500 each, WCS said.”International trade in species like the snow leopard is illegal under international law because it is globally endangered. Now that the snow leopard is protected under Afghan law, it is also illegal for Afghan nationals or internationals to hunt or trade the species within Afghanistan.”


Greater Flamingo Photo by Mark Anderson

NEPA will be responsible for managing Afghanistan’s protected species, including writing recovery plans for species designated as threatened.

Species will be re-evaluated every five years to determine whether populations have recovered to the extent where they may be removed from the protected list.


Eurasian Lynx photo by George Schaller

Last month Afghanistan announced the creation of its first national park: Band-e-Amir, six deep-blue lakes separated by natural dams made of travertine, a mineral deposit.

WCS, the only organization conducting ongoing scientific conservation studies in Afghanistan in the past 30 years, is working with the Afghan government to establish a network of parks and protected areas.


Markhor Photo by Graham Jones


Asiatic Cheetah (photographed in Iran) by Iran DOE/WCS/CACP/UNDP


Persian Leopard (photographed in Iran) by Iran DOE/WCS/CACP/UNDP


Urial Photo by George Schaller


Saker Falcon Photo by Mark Thomas

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