What are the endangered species in Afghanistan? Afghanistan, officially called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is a country situated at the crossroads of South and Central Asia.
It is also called the Heart of Asia, and just as you would expect, it has its collection of flora and fauna.
Afghanistan became a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1985.
However, no official reports exist on the country’s trade and conservation status of its wildlife species.
That’s not to say that Afghanistan does not have its fair share of endangered or threatened species.
There are quite a few of them, and some popular species in this category include the snow leopard, the markhor, and the Asiatic black bear.
3. Snow Leopard
The snow leopard has the scientific name Panthera uncia and falls under the family Felidae and genus Panthera.
It is a species of large cat native to the mountain ranges of South and Central Asia.
This animal is commonly found in alpine and subalpine zones at elevations of 9,800 – 14,800 feet.
Some popular places the snow leopard resides include eastern Afghanistan, western China, southern Siberia, and the Tibetian Plateau.
According to the IUCN Red List, the snow leopard is a vulnerable species, with only about 10,000 adults existing worldwide; this number is expected to reduce by 10% in 2040.
Several factors contribute to these animals’ steady decline, including the expansion of human settlement, habitat destruction, and poaching.
Herders are also known to kill snow leopards to protect their domestic animals.
Also, with climate change increasing the average temperature of this animal’s natural alpine habitat, experts believe there will be a reduction of adequate space to dwell in, leading to snow leopards competing with other predators like tigers, wild dogs, and leopards.
However, conservation efforts have started to save snow leopards.
For instance, protected areas have been created around their range, and sanctuaries have been established in places like Mongolia, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Countries have also enforced rules against poaching, and measures have been implemented to keep these creatures away from domestic animals.
2. The Markhor
The markhor (Capra falconeri) is a large, wild goat native to the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and Central Asia.
It’s Pakistan’s national animal, popularly known as the screw-horned goat in the country.
The markhor’s coat can be between black and silvery, light brown.
While the fur is always short and smooth in summer, it becomes thicker and longer in winter.
One way to identify the male is the long hair on the throat, chin, shanks, and chest.
The females have shorter hair and a short black beard, are redder in color, and don’t have manes.
The IUCN has classified the markhor as a near-threatened species, as the population of mature individuals is just about 5,800.
The numbers are gradually increasing, but these animals are not out of danger yet.
Markhors are a target for hunters who consider their rare spiral horns as a high-valued hunting prize.
Therefore, indiscriminate hunting is one of the factors affecting the population of these animals.
In addition, markhors are a potential prey for predators like jackals, snow leopards, lynxes, brown bears, and golden eagles.
Other factors threatening their existence are poaching and the reduction of habitat size.
1. The Asiatic Black Bear
The Asiatic black bear, with the scientific name Ursus thibetanus, has other names like the moon bear, the white-chested bear, and the Asian black bear.
It derives its name from the fact that it’s majorly found in several countries in Asia, including southeastern Iran, China, the Korean Peninsula, India, Japan, and of course, Afghanistan.
The IUCN has listed this species as vulnerable, as its number is decreasing gradually.
Although deforestation and expansion of human settlement are part of the reasons for the decline in the Asiatic black bear’s population, the primary factor is poaching and illegal hunting for the animal’s body parts like its paws, skin, and gall bladder.
Some of these body parts are used for traditional medicine.
Between the 50s and 60s, about 1,000 Asiatic black bears were slaughtered yearly in the Heilongjiang Province.
While this has reduced, these species are still hunted in some countries for Asian medicine.
There is no estimated total number of Asiatic black bears worldwide; population counts are based on different regions.
Reportedly, there are approximately 28,000 individuals in China, 5,000-6,000 in Russia, and 12,000-19,000 in Japan. 100-200 in Iran and 40 in South Korea.
This number will likely reduce unless conservation or protection measures are executed.