Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) announced today the establishment of the country’s first protected species list. The list, which includes 33 threatened and endangered species in Afghanistan, is the first designation in a series that will take place over the next year. This critical step provides legal protection to Afghanistan’s wild species, which have been devastated by over thirty years of conflict.
NEPA, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock; Kabul University; and the USAID-funded Wildlife Conservation Society created the Afghanistan Wildlife Executive Committee (AWEC) to facilitate the listing process. In July 2008, AWEC began evaluations of species such as the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, and Asiatic black bear. To make status determinations, AWEC and WCS worked with world-experts to obtain the most recent and accurate information available for Afghanistan and the region, and then evaluated those data using scientific criteria established by the global authority on species listing – the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
In Afghanistan, species like the snow leopard are under pressure from excessive hunting, loss of key habitat, and illegal trade. Snow leopard pelts for sale in tourist shops can go for as much as $1,500 each. International trade in species like the snow leopard is illegal under international law because snow leopards are globally endangered. Now that the snow leopard is protected under Afghan law, it is also illegal for Afghan nationals or internationals to hunt or trade the species within Afghanistan.
The protected species list also comes at a critical time for Afghanistan’s wild species. The Presidential Decree banning hunting in the country expired in March 2009. Only one week ago it would have been legal for any person to kill an endangered species like the snow leopard in Afghanistan.
NEPA has also worked collaboratively with students at the University of Richmond in the United States to complete the listing process. In the spring semester of 2009, students conducted research on Afghan species for AWEC and participated electronically in an evaluation session to answer questions for the Committee. Six species assessed by students are now listed as protected in Afghanistan.
NEPA will be responsible for managing Afghanistan’s protected species, including developing recovery plans for species designated as threatened. Species will be re-evaluated every five years to determine whether populations have recovered to the extent where they may be removed from the protected list.
NEPA gratefully acknowledges the assistance it has received from the international community including the USAID-funded program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and looks forward to its continued partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock and Kabul University in managing Afghanistan’s threatened and endangered species.