Afghanistan officially protects “world's least known bird” and 47 other threatened species

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, February 28, 2010

Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) announced today that it would strengthen its Protected Species List by adding an additional 15 species, including the elusive large-billed reed warbler only recently discovered in Afghanistan by researchers working for the USAID-funded Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

There are now a total of 48 protected species in Afghanistan.

NEPA, in cooperation with WCS, took immediate steps to protect the large-billed reed warbler, cited by Birdlife International as the world’s least known bird species, because by law, newly discovered species receive automatic legal protection in Afghanistan.

Such protection is crucial since Afghanistan may constitute one of the only known principal breeding habitats for this rare species. The first specimen was discovered in India in 1867, with more than a century elapsing before a second discovery of a single bird in Thailand in 2006. Threats to the Large-billed Reed Warbler in Afghanistan include habitat loss and degradation from fuel wood collection and agricultural practices.

In addition to the large-billed reed warbler, Afghanistan listed 14 other species (seven mammals, a tree, and six birds) including two bat species and the striped hyena. The additional species were evaluated by the Afghanistan Wildlife Executive Committee (AWEC), which was created in 2008 to recommend species for Afghanistan’s Protected List. The Committee is composed of representatives from NEPA, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and Kabul University and contains advisors from WCS and the Biodiversity Support Program/Ecodit.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which provided close support to the drafting of the 2007 Afghan Environment Law, under which wildlife conservation is regulated, is also a lead agency for assisting Afghanistan meet its global commitments in Biodiversity, Desertification, Climate Change and Wetlands legislation and building protected areas and conservation into the national development strategy. 

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