From vibrant pink flamingos to the critically endangered Siberian crane, Afghanistan hosts a surprising diversity of birds. Home to over 450 different species – seventeen of which are globally threatened – Afghanistan’s location at the crossroads of several biogeographic realms provides an incredible habitat for its bird population.
WCS has made tremendous progress in the protection and management of Afghanistan’s birdlife. Some of these achievements include:
- Discovered New Species for Afghanistan: In Badakhshan in 2008 WCS discovered for the first time in history a likely breeding population of large-billed reed warbler, dubbed “the world’s least- known bird.”
- Identified Important Breeding Areas for Protection: WCS confirmed the successful breeding of the greater flamingo in Ghazni province, its highest-elevation stronghold in the world. During recent years WCS has demonstrated the breeding of several rare species in Afghanistan, such as the large-billed reed warbler (Acrocephalus orinus), the Tibetan snowcock (Tetraogallus tibetanus), and the Tibetan sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes tibetanus). It is estimated that about 235 species of birds may breed in Afghanistan.
- Increased Public Awareness: WCS facilitated Afghanistan’s first World Migratory Bird Day celebration to highlight the need for and importance of conservation of migratory birds and their habitats.
- Identified Potential Threats to Endangered Species: WCS performed the first avian flu surveys of wild birds and poultry in Badakhshan, Bamyan, Ghazni, Kabul, and Takhar provinces and was able to confirm that none reacted positive for avian influenza. In addition, between 2008 and 2017, WCS performed surveys in Kabul on the availability of the drug diclofenac that leaves residues deadly to vultures in the carcasses of treated livestock. The use of the drug in India has brought three species of vulture to quasi-extinction. Driven by a ban on veterinary diclofenac instituted in Pakistan and India, the availability of diclofenac in Afghanistan which was mainly imported from Pakistan, has progressively declined from 2007-2017. It has largely been replaced by meloxicam, an equivalent drug much safer to vultures.
- Increased Legal Protection: Helped draft or provided technical input into various laws and policies that can protect birds when implemented, including the Environment Law (2007), Forestry Law (2012), draft Rangeland Law, draft Hunting Law, draft CITES regulation, Interim Tarzulamal on Protected Areas (2009), Protected Species List, draft National Bird Policy.