The Eastern Forests Complex contains some of the last remaining temperate coniferous forest in the Greater Himalayan mountain chain. The region is home to an impressive diversity of species, including Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, Persian leopard, Himalayan lynx, striped hyena, Kashmir musk deer, markhor, and Siberian ibex. Despite security issues, through community engagement and wildlife surveys WCS has achieved the following:
- Confirmed Presence of the Endangered Kashmir Musk Deer: After more than 60 years, WCS teams confirmed the presence of the fanged musk deer in the Eastern Forests. Prized for its scent glands this rare species is targeted by poachers throughout its Himalayan range.
- First surveys in 30 years: Wildlife surveys after 30 years of conflict revealed the presence of an impressive list of biodiversity, including populations of snow leopard and leopard cat,as well as: jackal, crested porcupine, yellow-throated marten, Asiatic black bear, and markhor. WCS also recorded the presence of the common palm civet, previously unknown in Afghanistan, which significantly extended the westernmost boundary for this species distribution range.
- Assessing forest loss: WCS completed the area’s first forest cover GIS study to estimate rate of forest loss, classify remaining forest cover and determine sample areas for wildlife surveys.
- Improving Education and Governance: WCS helped with the formation of the Environment Shura in Nuristan Province, which has since issued rules banning hunting in the Waygal Valley of Nuristan Province. Furthermore, community conservation outreach and consultation meetings were developed and implemented by WCS in two key districts in central Nuristan.
Since 2009, the Eastern Forests have remained largely inaccessible to international organizations due to conflict and insecurity. WCS Afghanistan looks forward to future engagement with communities once security improves.