Persian Leopards Make a Comeback in Afghanistan

Considering that the vast majority of news reports that come out of Afghanistan have to do with war, terrorism and poverty, it's remarkable that the country has made repeated, encouraging appearances on TreeHugger.

In 2009, Afghanistan opened its first national park. In 2010 it expanded its list of protected species. Now, there's more good news for the mountainous nation's wildlife: a Persian leopard, long thought to have been driven from the area, was photographed by a camera trap in Afghanistan's central highlands.

The camera traps, used by Wildlife Conservation Society scientists and Afghan rangers in the Hindu Kush highlands, also documented lynxes, wild cats, wolves, red foxes and stone martens. That means that something of a functioning ecosystem is back in place: the area can support enough animals like ibexes to support apex predators like the Persian leopard.

But the presence of one species adds a giant grain of salt to the good news: man. Specifically, poachers. Peter Zahler, Deputy Director of WCS’s Asia Program, said:

We are thrilled by these images and the story of survival that they tell, but we were sobered by the fact that the cameras also took photographs of local people walking past with guns. Poaching is still a very real threat, and WCS is committed to helping the Afghan government and local communities protect these rare and beautiful animals.

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Persian Leopards Make a Comeback in Afghanistan
A camera trap in Afghanistan's central highlands photographed a Persian leopard, thought to have disappeared from the region.