Afghanistan’s snow leopard numbers are at best just estimates. After many years of war when no information was collected, it is almost a guess as to the numbers. The most recent research suggests 100 to 200 but it may be a lot less due to many stories of poaching and illegal trade.
Rare footage of snow leopard in war zone
This video was sent to me by a young Sergeant in the US Army. It was filmed on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and seems to be a rare wild snow leopard. That area of Nuristan has been known to be snow leopard habitat although with many years of war and poaching it’s not known how many are left. The video caused quite a bit of controversy among snow leopard conservationists, with some believing it was a snow leopard while others think it’s a marten or weasel. See Posts here.
Update on snow leopard conservation projects
In June 2009 Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA), in an effort to safeguard its natural heritage, released the country’s first-ever list of protected species now banned from hunting or harvest. This list includes the rare snow leopard and is hoped will provide protection to the cats, which along with other wildlife has been devastated by more than 30 years of conflict. NEPA is working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and Kabul University.
Even during times of war in Afghanistan snow leopard numbers are decreasing due to excessive hunting, loss of key habitat and illegal trade. There have been snow leopard pelts for sale in tourist shops in Kabul, the capital, sometimes purchased by foreigners ignorant of the law. Local people can earn as much as $US1,500 per pelt. It is hoped now that the snow leopard is protected under Afghan law, it will be illegal for Afghan nationals or internationals to hunt or trade the species within Afghanistan. If the law is able to be enforced this will go a long way to helping the remaining few hundred snow leopards in this country survive.
In May 2009 Afghanistan announced the creation of its first national park: Band-e-Amir, a spectacular series of six deep blue lakes separated by natural dams made of travertine, a mineral deposit.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (US) is currently the only organisation doing scientific conservation studies in Afghanistan and will continue to work with the Afghan government to establish parks and protected areas.
Read more stories about snow leopards in Afghanistan.