Afghanistan’s rare and endangered animals – such as the snow leopard and Marco Polo sheep – are now legally protected from hunting, thanks to USAID and Wildlife Conservation Society efforts. On June 3, Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) announced the establishment of the country’s first protected species list, which includes 33 threatened and endangered birds, plants, insects, amphibians, and mammals. The protected species list comes at a critical time for Afghanistan’s wildlife, as a Presidential Decree banning hunting in the country expired in March 2009.
Afghanistan is home to a wide mix of wildlife unlike any in the world, and protecting it is essential to preserving the country’s unique biodiversity. The endangered species list is still being expanded through a unique collaboration between USAID, Kabul University, and the University of Richmond in Virginia. Students majoring in environmental studies assess proposed species, make recommendations, and then participate in joint electronic discussion sessions with the Afghan Wildlife Executive Committee (AWEC) – the official body established to create species lists.