Here be snow leopards!

By Razib Khan | July 14, 2011 1:32 am

I really love the fact that I live in the early 21st century for a host of reasons. That being said, one aspect that’s certainly true is that when it comes to charismatic natural variety and geography there are very few “blank spots” on the map. You can get a sense of what I’m talking about if you browse National Geographic from the early 20th century. Most of the map had been filled in, but there were still nooks and crannies waiting to be illuminated. So I always find stories like this interesting, because they capture a sliver of the wonder that once was so commonplace, Snow Leopard Population Discovered in Afghanistan:

The Wildlife Conservation Society has discovered a surprisingly healthy population of rare snow leopards living in the mountainous reaches of northeastern Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, according to a new study.

The paper is in the International Journal of Environmental Studies, Saving threatened species in Afghanistan: snow leopards in the Wakhan Corridor:

The Wakhan Corridor in northeast Afghanistan is an area known for relatively abundant wildlife and it appears to represent Afghanistan’s most important snow leopard landscape. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been working in Wakhan since 2006. Recent camera trap surveys have documented the presence of snow leopards at 16 different locations in the landscape. These are the first camera trap records of snow leopards in Afghanistan. Threats to snow leopards in the region include the fur trade, retaliatory killing by shepherds and the capture of live animals for pets. WCS is developing an integrated management approach for this species, involving local governance, protection by a cadre of rangers, education, construction of predator-proof livestock corrals, a livestock insurance program, tourism and research activities. This management approach is expected to contribute significantly to the conservation of snow leopards and other wildlife species in the Wakhan.

MORE ABOUT: Conservation
  • Zachary Latif

    Oddly enough I never read National Geographic but yesterday I caught the same article. Also it was interesting considering we’re discussing about the Kalash at BP that in Nuristan it has the highest ecological diversity in Afghanistan because it benefits from the South Asian monsoon moisture.

    Anyway its a great article and good to see something’s thriving in Afghanistan at least.

  • John Emerson

    While there are no more Darkest Africas or Shangri-Las, there are a lot of ecosystems that have not been explored yet. Some of them are very small, e.g. one recently discovered in Indonesia where unique species involved in the large inaccessible crater of a volcano. I get the National Geographic facebook page, and there’s always something new and interesting.

  • Tom Bri

    Growing up I found a cache of old school world maps, 1800s versions. Large portions were simply marked ‘Unknown’. Very exciting. Especially as I went through my Tarzan reading phase. My mom later threw them out. ;–(

  • Amit

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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