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2007 Marco Polo Argali Research in the Big Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan - Year-end Summary
Once known to be a relatively common inhabitant of the Afghan Pamirs, the current status of one of the most important indicator species of the high-altitude areas - the Marco Polo sheep - is now largely unknown. What is known is that thirty years of conflict, unrestricted hunting and extensive livestock grazing is likely to have caused a decline in their numbers. However, without baseline data on seasonal habitat use, species distribution, population status and movement patterns, Marco Polo conservation strategies can neither be developed nor implemented. The WCS Survey Team therefore headed north in 2007 to gather supporting data on Marco Polo sheep ecology and behavior, as well as train local researchers to carry on this valuable work. This report summarizes their work through the year.
A Field Mission of the Ecosystem Health Component to Band-e-Amir in May-June 2007
In Spring 2007, the WCS Ecosystem Health Team undertook a field mission to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province to collect data on livestock health and interactions with wildlife, study a recent case of fish die-off in one of the lakes and record the wildlife of the region - both old and new. This mission report reveals the Team's findings.
A Preliminary Assessment of Forest Cover and Change in the Eastern Forest Complex of Afghanistan
The Eastern Forest Complex includes the last continguous patches of arid coniferous forests in Afghanistan and is home to an impressive array of wildlife species including Himalayan lynx and Asiatic black bears. However, the booming timber trade occuring across the whole region is putting the area under serious pressure which is not likely to be sustainable or even irreversible. With security in the eastern provinces remaining unstable, ground-truthing to find out the extent of damage to biodiversity here is challenging. Instead, the WCS GIS team have worked with satellite imageries and innovative analysis approaches back at the base in Kabul to help map potential forest cover deforestation "hotspots". This report reveals their findings and suggests recommendations for future investigation.
A rare case of golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) destruction for use in traditional medicine, Wakhan, Afghanistan
On August 14, 2006 I discovered the carcass of an immature golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) in the poplar plantation of Mr Wali Jon in Goskun, Wakhan, Afghanistan. Although the carcass was dry and old, the plumage was intact and it was easy to identify the species (Plate 1). The bird was probably 3–4 years old. I noticed that all the claws had been removed (Plate 2).
A Survey of the Breeding Birds of the Wakhan Corridor
Surveying wildlife in Afghanistan is like working from an almost-blank slate. Having a lack of baseline data to work from is exciting but also challenging and much of WCS' field work is focused on building up knowledge of local fauna and flora, from scratch. For this field report, WCS ornithological teams headed to Badakhshan Province in the spring/summer season of 2009 to survey birdlife status and conservation in the high-altitude Wakhan Corridor, particularly within riparian and wetland habitats. This report also discusses the conservation significance of the Wakhan Corridor and proposes recommendations for its future protection.
A Visit to the Bird Market of Kabul (Ka Farushi) - 20 December 2006.
As part of a study initiated in summer 2006 to document seasonal variations in bird species and numbers, the WCS Ecosystem Health Team visited the Ka Farushi bird market of Kabul during winter 2006. Along with identifying the bird species for sale and estimating their numbers and health status, the Team also questioned shopkeepers on the origins and destinations of the birds, helping to build up a picture of wild bird trade routes across the region.
A visit to the bird market of Kabul (Ka Farushi), 27 August 2006
The market is an assemblage of small shops lined along a narrow pedestrian alley. We recorded the number of shops, identified native bird species for sale, estimated their numbers and health status, and questioned 12 shopkeepers about the price, origin and destination of their birds.
Activities of the Ecosystem Health Component in 2011 in Wakhan District, Afghanistan
In 2011 the team worked on a wide variety of projects, including organization of two mass vaccination campaigns against foot-and-mouth disease in cattle and domestic yak (Bos grunniens) in Wakhan Valley, the first bovine tuberculosis screening in cattle in Lower Wakhan, a large-scale livestock blood-sampling operation and serological screening for brucellosis and contagious caprine pleuropneumonia, a longitudinal urial sheep (Ovis vignei) / Himalayan ibex (Capra sibirica) survey of the Hindu Kush mountain range, and the organization and implementation of livestock census in western Big Pamir. The team has also provided upon demand help and expertise to all requests originating from other components of the WCS project in Wakhan.
Activity Report of the Ecosystem Health Team in Wakhan, Afghanistan - September to November 2010
During the winter period of 2010, the WCS Ecosystem Health Team performed a mass Foot-and-Mouth disease vaccination program of yak and cattle in the Big and Small Pamirs, and along the Wakhan Valley in Badakhshan. Alongside this work, the team also collected blood samples from sheep, goats, yak and cattle in order to analyze exposure to brucellosis, and began the area's first ever bovine TB detection campaign. A livestock census survey was also conducted and this field report documents their results and findings.
Activity Report of the WCS Ecosystem Health Team in the Wakhan District, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan - July 2010
An activity report documenting the progress of WCS in developing the capacity and skills of Wakhi villagers and rangers through various training activities. The particular focus of the report is on ranger training exercises provided by the Ecosystem Health Project Team during summer 2010. This training aimed at providing an overview of wildife diseases and highlighting the importance of community/ranger patrol work in surveilling wildlife and livestock health within the higher-altitude rangelands.
Additional Data on Livestock Health in Band-i-Amir (update to the report "A Field Mission of the Ecosystem Health Component to Band-e-Amir in May-June 2007")
Monitoring the health status of livestock is critical in assessing disease risk to wild animals. This is particularly true in Afghanistan since the potential for inter-species transmission is high given the amount of cohabitation between domestic and wild animals. This addendum document to the WCS Ecosystem Team's 2007 report compiles the results of investigations into health issues within domestic sheep and goats in Band-e-Amir (such as Foot-and-Mouth diease) and discusses the development of policies in the future to reduce disease transmission into wild ungulate populations such as the Marco Polo sheep.
An annotated list of bird species observed by the Ecosystem Health Team in Wakhan and Big Pamir in July–August 2006
The present report provides an annotated list of the bird species observed by the Ecosystem Health Team (Dr Khadr Abdulkhadr, Dr Ali Madad Rajabi, Dr Hafizullah Ziauddin, and myself) during their mission in Wakhan and Big Pamir in July and August 2006. Since the main purpose of the mission was not to thoroughly examine the avifauna of the region, this list does not ambition to be exhaustive. We recorded bird species opportunistically, often during our spare time. Nevertheless I asked the other team members to report to me any ornithological observations they made, a duty they completed with dedication and enthusiasm
An Annoted List of Bird Species Observed by the Ecosystem Health Team in Wakhan in November - December 2006
Combined with previous expeditions to the high-altitude peaks of the Pamir mountains, the Ecosystem Health Team set out in the winter of 2006 to clarify the status of a number of resident, breeding, wintering and migratory birds that occur in this unique landscape, including the Lammergeier and Ibisbill. Eight new species to the region were also recorded during this trip. This is the first document since seminal survey work was conducted here in the 1970s and helps to improve our knowledge of the avifauna in the Afghan Pamirs.
Appendix to Permanent Monitoring Sites- Methdology and Examples of Photo Plots and Data
In order to determine changes in overall condition of a site over time, whether that includes improvements or further degradation, time-sensitive measurements of parameters such as vegetation levels must be made on a consistent basis. Without such data, it becomes almost impossible to predict the conservation potential of a site, particularly within the context of planning for a future protected area network. This was exactly the challenge facing the WCS Rangeland Team; thus their first job within the Wakhan Corridor was to establish permanent monitoring sites in 2006, 2007 and 2008. This appendix accompanies the report entitled - Permanent Monitoring Sites: Methodology and Examples of Photo Plots and Data.
Argali Abundance in the Afghan Pamir Using Capture-Recapture Modeling From Fecal DNA
Abstract: Estimating population size in a mark-recapture framework using DNA obtained from remotely collected genetic samples (e.g., feces) has become common in recent years but rarely has been used for ungulates. Using DNA extracted from fecal pellets, we estimated the size of an argali (Ovis ammon) population that was believed to be isolated from others within the Big Pamir Mountains, Afghanistan, an area where access was difficult and expensive. The full paper is available for purchase from the Journal of Wildlife Management and the abstract is available at this link.
Assessment of Raptor Trade in Afghanistan - A Short Visit to Mazar-e-Sharif.
High numbers of hawks and falcons are trapped and sold onto the Gulf countries for the sport of falcony every year. This has led to a decline in numbers of certain bird species particularly the Saker falcon, Peregrine falcon and Gyr falcon. Afghanistan is a known breeding ground and migratory destination for these birds, and Mazar-e-Sharif city in the north is a center for wildlife trade. This investigative report was conducted by the WCS Ecosystem Health Team and provides much-needed knowledge on the occurrence and extent of the raptor trade in Afghanistan gleaned through interviews with traders.
Biodiversity Reconnaissance Survey- July-August 2011- Shar-e-Buzurg District, Badakshan Province
Shar-e-Buzurg is one of 28 districts in Badakhshan Province. The capital of this district is a town bearing the same name, Shahr-e Buzurg. It is a remote part of Afghanistan with a very poor road network. Shahr-e Buzurg is divided into five zones and has a population of approximately 42,000 people spread across 74 villages. Villages are far away from each other and people lack public transportation. Wildlife were said to be abundant in Shahr-e Buzurg during the 1970s, and according to a gap analysis carried out by WCS in collaboration with the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) from the Afghan government in 2009, as part of the Program of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA), it is an area of interest for biodiversity conservation. In addition, Habibi (2003) indicates that Shahr-e Buzurg is part of the historical range for the markhor (Capra falconeri) in Afghanistan. Therefore surveying this area has been viewed as a priority.
Birds and Mammals in Dasht-e-Nawar, Afghanistan- Occurrence and Hunting Pressure, 2007 Surveys
In the spring and summer of 2007, the WCS Ecosystem Health Team surveyed a high-altitude wetland in eastern Afghanistan (known locally as Dasht-e-Nawar), the goal being to document the birds and mammals frequently observed there and assess the hunting pressure upon them. Two immediate successes were the sighting of Greater flamingos breeding on the lake and 40 new bird species added to the site list. However, the survey also revealed extensive capture of waterbirds here during the summer which is likely to reduce their numbers significantly in the long-term.
Capacity Building for Biodiversity Conservation in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, there is a distinct lack of institutional and scientific technical capacity which threatens to affect the ability of the country to manage its own natural resources in the future. To tackle this in the long-term, WCS has been very active over the past four years in training personnel from government, rural communities, educational institutions and NGOs, both through formal training sessions and public outreach campaigns. The overall focus is on increasing the knowledge and skill levels of those responsible for natural resource management in areas including wildlife health, wildlife surveys techniques, rural and central governance, ecotourism and rangeland conservation. This training report describes all of the training activities to-date and the impact they have had on wildlife conservation in Afghanistan.
Conservation, wildlife and security - Afghanistan Case Study
In this chapter from WCS Working Paper 32 on protected areas and human livelihoods, WCS staff write about the challenges facing wildlife conservation in Afghanistan, the unique culture and natural landscapes across the country, the mutltitude of threats facing its wildlife, and the conservation activities being implemented to mitigate these threats. The paper is downloadable at this link.
Darwaz Survey Report
The most notable findings of the survey were the confirmation of the presence of Markhor and Brown Bear in the Area, as well as what appears to be the first ever live photographs of a lizard species, Laudakia badakhshana, and the first record of this species since its initial taxonomic description in 1969 (S. Anderson per comm., 2012). There was also a report that a Caspian Tiger had allegedly been shot in Darwaz about 15 years ago. In the course of 29 days of survey we visited three districts of Darwaz where we saw markhor, red fox, unidentified voles and bats, 107 species of birds, agama lizards and Laudakia badakshana . We recorded indirect field evidence of brown bear, leopard (or possibly snow leopard), ibex, porcupine, marmot, wild boar and snakes. During the interview the informants reported the occurrence of nearly 20 mammalian species in the study area
Description of Wakhan Corridor Vegetation Land Classes Delineated in the Supervised Land Classification.
The Wakhan Corridor in far north-eastern Afghanistan is one of the harshest environments on earth. It is subject to extremely cold and dry weather so the small area that is actually covered by vegetation is dominated by very hardy, desert-type species. Rangelands cover most of the landscape and plant communities appear to be changing constantly in line with the changing environment. This add-on report to "Land Classification of the Wakhan Study Area" describes the different classes of vegetation that were used in the WCS rangeland classification study of the Wakhan Corridor. Additional information is also provided on community types and abiotic features of the land such as elevation, slope and rock coverage.
Finding peace and cure in Band-e Amir
Band-e Amir Park is popular with Afghans in part because it’s one of only a few places in the country where women and children can enjoy themselves outside in safety. Of all the effects of war on Afghanistan, among the most surreal — and perhaps the happiest — are swan boats. On a recent day, nearly 40 of the bird-shaped pedal boats packed with families were meandering around the almost painfully blue mineral waters of the main lake here. From several came one of the rarest public sounds in Afghanistan: women laughing uproariously. For centuries Afghans have believed that the waters of the group of six lakes known as Band-e Amir can cure illness and infertility. Now Band-e Amir also has become the nation’s soothing antidote to the daily horrors elsewhere: improvised bombs, suicide attacks and bribe-hungry police. Partly that’s due to the peacefulness and startling beauty of the remote region, which is tucked away high in the Hindu Kush of central Afghanistan, and partly it’s because four years ago it became Afghanistan’s first national park. "The full paper is available for purchase from the www.gulf-times.com and abstract is available at this link"
Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the Wakhan District, Afghanistan - Preliminary Investigations for a Pilot Vaccination Project
WCS have been studying the Wakhi livestock herds since 2006, focusing particularly on their health status since disease transmission from livestock to wildlife can be devastating for wild ungulate populations. Foot-and-Mouth epizootics are regular in Afghanistan, with 3 serotypes known for the country. However, very little is known about Foot-and-Mouth disease epidemiology in the remote areas of the Wakhan. With this in mind, the Ecosystem Health Team went on a mission in 2009 to question Wakhi herders, repeat a serological survey of livestock carried out in previous years and test serological responses of cattle to an available vaccine, all as a precursor to a mass vaccination campaign. This report discusses their findings and helps act as a potential model for other livestock communities across high-altitude Central Asia.
Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccination Campaign in the Wakhan District, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan - April 2010
With Foot-and-Mouth being an endemic disease in Afghanistan, affecting a great number of livestock and having a direct effect on food security, the WCS Ecosystem Health Team set out to increase the protective immunity of a cattle and yak population within the upper Wakhan Valley, north-eastern Afghanistan. A mass FMD vaccination campaign was initiated in April 2010 targeting almost 3,000 animals, with the results documented within this Ecosystem Health team's report.
Genetic structure and population size of Marco Polo sheep (argali) in the Pamir region of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan
The Marco Polo Sheep is a flagship species for high-altitude Afghanistan. It's choice of habitat however makes studying the sheep's movements and whole ecology very challenging To tackle this gap in our knowledge, teams at WCS Afghanistan set out to investigate the genetic and population characteristics of one group of Marco Polo sheep using very effective non-invasive sampling. This report summarises the team's work and findings to-date.
Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program
We, as leaders in the governments of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Kingdom of Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, the custodians of the world’s snow leopards and the valuable high-mountain ecosystems they inhabit, having gathered at a Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, from 22-23 October 2013, with the shared goal of conserving snow leopards and their fragile habitats.
High Connectivity among Argali Sheep from Afghanistan and Adjacent Countries- A Noninvasive Assessment Using Neutral and Candidate Gene Microsatellites
Abstract: We quantified population connectivity and genetic variation in the Marco Polo subspecies of argali mountain sheep (Ovis ammon polii) by genotyping 9 neutral and 8 candidate gene microsatellite loci in 172 individuals noninvasively sampled across five study areas in Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. Heterozygosity and allelic richness were generally high (mean H = 0.67, mean A = 6.1), but were significantly lower in the China study area (H = 0.61, P < 0.001; A = 4.9, P < 0.01). One marker in an immune system gene (TCRG4) showed an excess of rare alleles compared to neutral expectations. Another immune system gene (GLYCAM-1) showed excessive differentiation (high F ST) between study areas. Estimates of genetic differentiation were similar (F ST = 0.035 vs. 0.033) with and without the two loci deviating from neutrality, suggesting that selection is not a primary driver of overall molecular variation, and that candidate gene loci can be used for connectivity monitoring, as long as selection tests are conducted to avoid biased gene flow estimates. Adequate protection of argali and maintenance of inter-population connectivity will require monitoring and international cooperation because argali exhibit high gene flow across international borders. The full paper is available for purchase from the Springer Link website and the abstract is available at this link.
La Faune Vertébrée de la Province de Bamiyan (French). The Vertebrate Fauna of Bamiyan Province (English)
The faunal diversity of Bamyan Province appears fairly limited due to its high altitude, cold climate, low rainfall levels and ecological uniformity. Just 25% of Afghan mammals, 30% of birds and 3% of the country's reptiles are thought to occur in Bamiyan. However, as with all of Afghanistan, it is a land waiting to be discovered. The publication (published in French by Ceredaf), is available for subscription and download here, and discusses the potential for further zoological discoveries in Bamiyan.
Large mammals surviving conflict in the eastern forests of Afghanistan
WCS field teams used transect and camera-trap surveys and DNA identification of scat samples to provide the first update since 1977 of large mammals in the montane forests of Nuristan Province in eastern Afghanistan. The full paper is available for purchase from Oryx and the abstract is available at this link.
New Information on the Large-Billed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orinus, including its song and breeding habitat in north-eastern Afghanistan
This article, accessible through subscription to Forktail, details the first well-documented, probable breeding location of the Large-billed reed warbler in north-eastern Afghanistan. It provides a description of the species song, habitat, and conservation issues, along with a summary of identification criteria using new information from live birds.
Notes on nest and breeding of Afghan Snowfinch Pyrgilauda theresae, Bamiyan province, Afghanistan
The Sandgrouse journal article available through subscription at this link discusses the discovery of Afghan Snowfinch nests in 2008 while WCS were conducting surveys around Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province. As described back in the 60s, this endemic species constructs nests under the ground within existing burrows - behaviour that was witnessed by the two researchers on this trip.
Occurrence of Wildlife and Hunting Activities in Imam Sahib, Aye Khanum and Darqad Wetlands, Afghanistan, December 2007.
The turgai forest of Afganistan's northern wetlands, with its poplar and willow trees, various shrub and grass communities, is a keystone ecosystem and is home to many resident and migratory species. However, it is becoming an increasingly rare habitat due to extensive fuelwood collection, infrastructure development and water diversion. Hunting of wildlife is also a major threat in this region. To discover more about these hunting practices and document wildlife presence, the WCS Ecosystem Health Team conducted questionnaire investigations and wildlife surveys in the wetlands of Imam Sahib, Aye Khanum and Darqad during winter 2007. Interesting results were obtained which have allowed a direct comparison between the three sites. The Team's report is available here.
Ornithological Surveys in Bamiyan Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
In order to determine the conservation value of two potential protected areas in Afghanistan - Band-e-Amir (now an official National Park) and Ajar Valley - WCS conducted ornithological surveys during spring 2008. Important baseline data were gathered for future management plans, with a particular emphasis placed on those bird species breeding at the two sites. This paper can be accessed through subscription to Sandgrouse at the following link.
Protected Species Poster II
At the end of 2009, a further 15 species were added to the first Protected Species List declared in June 2009, prohibiting all hunting and trade in their parts. This list had been prepared by the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), with the assistance of academic institutions, other governmental agencies and with technical advice provided by WCS.
Quest to Save the Snow Leopard
Two decades after he first aimed his rifle at one of the world's rarest mammals, Karmal was again on the hunt for the elusive snow leopard. Stalking through the mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan, he was getting closer. There were paw prints in the sand and scratch marks on the limestone boulders, signs that the leopard was marking its territory. Karmal knew it could be anywhere, peering down at him from an unseen bluff. He moved quietly. But this time, Karmal wasn't carrying a gun. He held a metal snare that he would use to trap the animal. He was working for an environmental conservation organisation attempting to better understand one of the most vulnerable species in the world. After Karmal caught the animal, it would be tagged with a GPS collar and tracked as it traversed Afghanistan's hinterlands. "The full paper is available for purchase from the Guardian website (www.theguardian.com)and the abstract is avilable at this link"
Rangeland Assessment in Wakhan, 2008
As a follow-up to work conducted in the major Pamir valleys, this field report documents studies undertaken by the WCS Rangeland Team within the smaller side valleys of the Pamirs, in order to record conditions such as livestock-use and rangeland degradation. A rapid assessment was made along with a mapping exercise that depicted broad rangeland types, and permanent transects were established so that the landscape could be monitored in the future. These areas not only provide grazing for livestock but they also form the habitat of many different species of wildlife and so competition for forage between the two must be closely observed.
Rangeland Assessment of the Wakhan Corridor Study Areas- Results from the 2007 Field Season
The WCS Rangeland Team undertook a major assessment of the Big Pamir and Little Pamir rangelands in 2007 to establish areas important for pastoralists and sites where livestock and wild ungulates compete for forage. This report documents their main findings from rangeland mapping using vegetation indices and supervised classification methods, and includes a discussion on plant cover/community types and rangeland degradation issues, with an outline for future rangeland conservation goals.
Rangelands of Band-e-Amir National Park and Ajar Provisional Wildlife Reserve, Afghanistan
Rangelands are critically important ecosystems in Afghanistan, particularly as a food source for livestock and wild herbivores and as habitat for a host of wild species. The WCS Rangeland team concentrated their efforts during 2007 and 2008 on two areas of Bamyan Province - Band-e-Amir National Park and Ajar Provisional Wildlife Reserve - where responsible land management strategies are often poorly implemented and the rangelands and surrounding wildlife have suffered. This article (available through subscription to the Rangelands journal) offers an overview of rangelands in Afghanistan, describes the two areas in Bamyan and the people who live off the land there, and discusses the associated natural resource problems across the entire region.
Results of Argali Survey in Big Pamir and the Wakhjir Valley by the Marco Polo Sheep Survey Team 2008.
This report summarizes the main results and conclusions from WCS surveys of Marco Polo sheep populations carried out in the Big Pamir mountains and Wakhjir Valley during the 2008 field season. New insights into their ecology are discussed contributing towards efforts to develop a management plan for this elusive species.
Saving More Than Just Snow Leopards
Snow leopard has slowly gained notice as studies have found that it is increasingly threatened, with likely fewer than 7,000 animals left across its enormous range in Asia. In turn, this interest in the cats has drawn attention to the human communities of these mountains and the fragility of their ecosystem, particularly their watersheds, which are crucial to the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people in the lowlands.
Socioeconomic Survey and Range Use Survey of Wakhi Households using the Afghan Pamir, Wakhan District, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan
This detailed report focuses on the social and economic sides of natural resource management, both of which have long been recognized as absolutely critical issues in the fight to conserve wildlife and habitats. Empowering local communities is a key element of WCS' work in Afghanistan and the WCS Community Conservation Program Team have spent many hours interviewing the Wakhi population to understand their lives and how the wildlife and rangelands are impacted. Results are presented in full here, helping to build up a comprehensive picture of life in the Wakhan.
Status of Mammals in Wakhan, Afghanistan
This report summarizes the work of the WCS Wildlife Survey Team who carried out seasonal studies along the Wakhan Corridor during 2007. Their main goals were to examine livestock losses in the area following a very harsh winter, and to evaluate the health and status of wildlife populations in the Big Pamir mountains and the Wakhjir Valley. Two highlights of the expedition were the confirmed presence along the Corridor of both urial sheep and the common otter. Sighting data like these can help refine distribution maps and aid conservation strategies in the region significantly. The Marco Polo sheep populations also appeared to be surviving well and, judging by the scat samples, all top predators in the region including snow leopards and wolves were obtaining plentiful prey.
Success Story- Victory for Endangered Species
The survival of a multitude of species has been under threat in Afghanistan for many years from illegal hunting activities. A Presidential Decree banning hunting went some way to combating this, however when the Decree expired in March 2009, it became clear that more enforceable measures were desperately needed. WCS and USAID helped to form a Committee and, together, comprehensive lists of Harvestable and Protected Species were compiled. For the first time in Afghanistan's history, it had an official Protected Species List that placed legal protection upon a range of species such as the snow leopard, Siberian crane and a critically endangered amphibian - the Paghman salamander. This Press Release accompanies the official publication of the first list and describes future plans to ensure such protection measures are implemented in full.
The Asiatic Black Bear Still Survives in Nuristan, Afghanistan
Based on indications that the Asiatic black bear only subsists in isolated pockets of forests in eastern Afghanistan, on the occasional occurrence of cubs for sale in the region and the presence of four young adult bears at Kabul Zoo allegedly procured as cubs from Nuristan, WCS began a series of surveys to detect the presence of this bear species in south-central Nuristan during December 2006. Their paper, available at this link to the International Bear News website, documents the main findings.
Top-down meets bottom-up - Conservation in a post-conflict world
Written by the Deputy Director of the WCS Asia Program, this article in Conservation in Practice journal demonstrates the enormous potential for conservation in post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan - obstacles can actually be offset by the enormous possibilities when a country is essentially reborn.
Wakhan Avifauna Survey- Priority Species for Conservation and Survey of Autumn Migration
The Wakhan Corridor is home to an array of distinctive flora and fauna including some unique Himalayan birdlife. Two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been designated along the Corridor due to the occurrence of several specialized and rare species. However, previous data on bird populations in this isolated region are extremely limited, with no information on specific sites within the Wakhan Corridor. Data on biodiversity are vital for ensuring Protected Areas are designated accurately; so WCS have been sending teams up to the Wakhan for several years to document species presence, particularly since, aside from being home to many breeding and resident birds, it provides a valuable stop-over site for several migratory species. For conservation planning, it is also important to determine the conservation value of the Wakhan Corridor habitat in terms of the priority species that exist there such as the saker falcon, Himalayan snowcock and bar-headed goose. This report discusses the methodology behind the comprehensive survey and the key results.
Wakhi Livestock in Big Pamir Numbers and Demographic Trends
This report discusses the results of annual livestock counts carried out between 2006 and 2013 in the west of Big Pamir by WCS Afghanistan’s veterinary team. Analysis of livestock count results categorized according to age-classes, and grazing areas were not included in this report, but will have added significance after several more years of monitoring. The observed demographic trends are discussed in the frame of sustainable rural livelihoods and landscape conservation.
WCS Mammal Survey Report 2007
This report details the results of three phases of mammalian survey corridor. the main objective of the project is to undertake a thorough survey of large mammals and other fauna in three key areas in the wakhan corridor of northeast Afghanistan: 1)the Big Pamir Wildlife Reserve, 2) the eastern end of the Little Pamir and 3)the eastern strip of the Waghjir Valley. During the survey period from 2006-2007 ISTL team collected 94 scats of snow leopard, 84 scats of wolf and 13 scats of red fox and these scats where analyzed for food habits of these carnivores.
WCS Wakhan Livestock Insurance Program
The hunting and killing of predators in retaliation for attacks on livestock is common across the Afghan Pamir and Wakhan Corridor. As well as causing huge losses to community incomes and livelihoods, this also severely impacts carnivore populations such as the snow leopard. Mitigating this conflict is therefore essential to secure rural livelihoods and ensure the conservation of high-altitude predators remains effective. WCS is developing an integrated management strategy to work towards this, including the implementation of a livestock insurance program. This report discusses the risks involved, and the success of the program so far.
Wildlife Conservation ... in Afghanistan
Written by Peter Smallwood associate professor of biology at University of Richmond, Chris shank Bamyan project adviser, Alix Dehgan science and technology adviser of USAID and Peter zahler WCS's Asia program deputy director. This article in Bioscience Journal demonstrate conservation projects in conflict zones, blending development and conservation goals, Afghanistan's biodiversity, conservation in the twenty-first century, conservation in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Band-e-Amir national park and many other conservation issues.
Wildlife Surveys and Wildlife Conservation in Nuristan, Afghanistan
After 30 years of war, much of the data on wildlife occurrence in eastern Afghanistan has either been lost or is now outdated. Heavy deforestation and hunting levels have undoubtedly damaged the region, however it is thought to still hold an extensive portion of the country's remaining forests. This is important not just for Afghanistan but for biodiversity as a whole, with the eastern forests containing one of the world's "Global 200" ecoregions. To update this knowledge and help provide baseline information for conservation work, WCS conducted a large-scale field study in south central Nuristan including camera trap and large mammal surveys, scat collection and DNA analysis. The results were revealing, with advanced camera trap technology allowing a real insight into the unique wildlife of this region. This project report documents these results and discusses the challenges in implementing a conservation strategy in the eastern regions.
Wildlife trade poster
This educational poster shows pictures of the furs from four endangered felid species found within Afghanistan, used as an identification guide primarily by US Military Personnel.
Will the opening of a stunning national park attract foreign tourists to Kabul
The park must wait three years before it can gain official status, but in the meantime, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is driving the park's creation. WCS is now working with field scientists and local communities to develop the park's management plan, train local rangers and win hearts and minds.
Women Rangers Now Roam Afghanistan's First National Park
It took 62 years for women rangers to achieve equal status with their male peers in the US National Park Service: in Afghanistan, it has taken just three. In a landmark event for Afghanistan, four women were recently hired as park rangers in the country's Band-e-Amir National Park – the first female park rangers ever employed in the nation.
World Environment Day on the Roof of the World
On June 5, a World Environment Day delegation led by Prince Mostapha Zaher, Director-General of Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA), along with representatives of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) will celebrate with members of the Kyrgyz communities by the alpine shores of Lake Chaqmaqtin in the remote, rarely-visited Little Pamir region. In partnership with the people of Wakhan, WCS, MAIL, and NEPA have embarked upon a program of bringing development to the area through wildlife conservation and sustainable management of the area’s natural resources.
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