Endangered Snow Leopards Discovered in Afghanistan Mountains
“This is a wonderful discovery – it shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia Programs. “Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as a key part of Afghanistan’s natural heritage.”
Researchers have calculated that populations of the snow leopard — which live in some of the world’s highest mountains and are found in a dozen countries across central Asia — have dropped by about 20 percent over the last 16 years, with an estimated 4,500 to 7,500 cats surviving in the wild. And while the snow leopard seems to be thriving in the Wakhan Corridor, WCS conservationists say the cat remains vulnerable to numerous regional threats, including poaching for their pelts, retaliatory killings by shepherds, and capture for the illegal pet trade.
With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the New York-based wildlife group has developed a series of initiatives to protect the snow leopard, including training of 59 rangers, conservation education in schools, and proposed “predator-proof” livestock corrals to prevent conflicts with shepherds.