Thriving Snow leopard population discovered in Afghanistan13/07/2011 23:39:48 Snow leopards in Afghanistan
July 2011. The Wildlife Conservation Society has discovered a surprisingly healthy population of rare snow leopards living in the mountainous reaches of north-eastern Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, according to a new study.
The discovery gives hope to the world's most elusive big cat, which calls home to some of the world's tallest mountains. Between 4,500 and 7,500 snow leopards remain in the wild scattered across a dozen countries in Central Asia.
16 camera traps
WCS-trained community rangers used camera traps to document the presence of snow leopards at 16 different locations across a wide landscape. The images represent the first camera trap records of snow leopards in Afghanistan. WCS has been conserving wildlife and improving local livelihoods in the region since 2006 with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The study was undertaken by WCS conservationists Anthony Simms, Zalmai Moheb, Salahudin, Hussain Ali, Inayat Ali and Timothy Wood.
Anthony Simms, lead author and the project's Technical Advisor, said, "By developing a community-led management approach, we believe snow leopards will be conserved in Afghanistan over the long term."
59 rangers trained - Guarding snow leopards, Ibex and Marco Polo sheep
In Afghanistan, USAID has provided support to WCS to work in more than 55 communities across the country and is training local people to monitor and sustainably manage their wildlife and other resources. One of the many outputs of this project was the creation of Afghanistan's first national park - Band-e-Amir - which is now co-managed by the government and a committee consisting of all 14 communities living around the park.
Snow leopards have declined by as much as 20 percent over the past 16 years and are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
WCS is a world leader in the care and conservation of snow leopards. WCS's Bronx Zoo became the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to exhibit these rare spotted cats in 1903. In the past three decades, nearly 80 cubs have been born in the Bronx and have been sent to live at 30 zoos in the U.S. and eight countries in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.
The study appears in the June 29th issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies