In a press release issued July 13, the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed the discovery of a healthy snow leopard population in the mountains of Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. Rangers trained by WCS installed “camera traps” at 16 different locations across the region to document the rare felines. Their findings are the first camera trap records of snow leopards in Afghanistan.
“This is a wonderful discovery — it shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan,” Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia Programs, said in the press release. “Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as a key part of Afghanistan’s natural heritage.”
The snow leopard is an endangered species native to the rugged peaks of Central Asia, roaming at altitudes between 9,800 and 17,000 feet. The WCS estimates that only 4,500 to 7,500 snow leopards remain in the wild. Experts believe this population has declined by 20% over the past 16 years. The elusive big cats are threatened by local shepherds, illegal capture for the exotic pet trade and poachers who covet their dense, spotted coats.
The WCS is developing several conservation initiatives to protect the snow leopards in Afghanistan. The group will partner with local communities to do educational outreach about the species and train additional rangers. Schools in the Wakhan region have already begun incorporating conservationist lesson plans, and 59 rangers have been trained to monitor the snow leopard population and enforce anti-poaching laws.
“We believe snow leopards will be conserved in Afghanistan over the long term,” said Anthony Simms, WCS Technical Advisor.
Photo credit: Macpedia