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Photos: wildlife survives warfare in eastern Afghanistan

Crested porcupine
Crested porcupine. Credit: WCS-Afghanistan

Despite ongoing warfare and strife, wildlife is surviving in Afghanistan, reports a new study published in the journal Oryx.

The research is based on camera-trap surveys, transect surveys, and DNA identification of wildlife scat in the eastern province of Nuristan from 2006-2009. It is the first wildlife census of the war-torn province since 1977.

The work — conducted by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) scientists — confirmed the presence of several important species, including the first documented sighting of the common palm civet in Afghanistan, in the region’s montane deciduous and coniferous forests. Other wildlife included crested porcupine, leopard cat, Asiatic black bear, Asiatic brown bear, markhor, yellow-throated marten, red fox, and rhesus macaque, as well as unknown wild dogs and cats.

Asiatic black bear
Asiatic black bear.

leopard cat
Leopard cat.

yellow-throated marten
Yellow-throated marten.

palm civet
Palm civet. Credits: WCS-Afghanistan

“Afghanistan’s environment – like the Afghan people – has shown incredible resilience in the face of decades of instability,” said lead author Kara Stevens of Michigan State University in a statement. “However, future support is necessary to ensure that communities can sustainably manage these resources for generations to come.”

Most wildlife work in Afghanistan is funded by USAID. WCS says the investment in resource management projects in conflict regions is a way to “stabilize areas without military intervention, potentially saving U.S. money and lives.”

“About 80 percent of Afghanistan’s people depends directly on the country’s natural resources for their survival,” said Peter Zahler, Deputy Director for the WCS Asia Program. “USAID has shown great insight in recognizing the importance of natural resource management for the country’s continued stability and reconstruction.”

To date the effortss have resulted in the creation of Afghanistan’s first national park – Band-e-Amir – which is now “co-managed by the government and a committee consisting of all 14 communities living around the park,” according to WCS.

CITATION: Stevens et al. Large mammals surviving conflict in the eastern forests of Afghanistan. Oryx, 45(2), 265–271.

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