Afghanistan Home to Healthy Population of Snow Leopards
Good news from the Wildlife Conservation Society who has reported that a healthy population of snow leopards have been discovered living in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor.
The study, which appears in the June 29th issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies, reports the success of camera traps which were placed throughout the region and documented the presence of the snow leopards at 16 different locations. These are the first images of snow leopards in Afghanistan captured by camera traps.
“This is a wonderful discovery – it shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia Programs. “Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as a key part of Afghanistan’s natural heritage.”
Snow leopards have declined by as much as 20 percent over the past 16 years, and now number between 4,500 and 7,500 in the wild, scattered across a dozen Central Asian countries. The species have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“By developing a community-led management approach, we believe snow leopards will be conserved in Afghanistan over the long term,” said Anthony Simms, lead author and the project’s Technical Advisor.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have begun implementing numerous conservation initiatives in an attempt to protect the newly discovered snow leopard populations.
Fifty-nine rangers have already been trained who will monitor the snow leopards, as well as other species including Marco Polo sheep and ibex, while the enforce poaching laws.
WCS has also begun providing predator-proof livestock corrals and a livestock insurance program for shepherds in an attempt to minimise their acting out against the snow leopards. That being said, WCS has found that very few livestock fall prey to predators.
Poaching for snow leopard pelts, the above mentioned persecution by shepherds, and the capture of live animals for the illegal pet trade are all threats to the snow leopard populations worldwide.