The Wakhan District in Afghanistan has been declared the country’s second national park. Wakhan District, one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan, will provide protection for Afghanistan’s rare and vulnerable wildlife such as the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, lynx, Himalayan ibex and urial. This new protected area will be co-managed by the Afghanistan Government and local communities, providing livelihoods related to the park and improved services to one of the poorest and most isolated regions on earth.
It is just over 1 million hectares or 4,200 square miles and borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China; its narrow valley landscape is sandwiched between the Pamir and Hindu Kush Mountains. The park is 25% larger than America’s Yellowstone.
The Director-General of Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) Prince Mostapha Zaher, the grandson of the country’s last King Zaher Shah, together with Asif Rahimi, the Minister for Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) formally made the historic Wakhan declaration. “We are proud that the Wakhan National Park is in one of the last truly wild places on the planet. We are proud to have a National Park on the ‘Roof of the World.’ It was also a dream of my late grandfather to have a National Park in the Wakhan after he had initiated the steps in the 1950s,” said Prince Mostapha Zaher. “We can prove that the cause of protecting the environment and wildlife can also be utilized as an instrument of peace and tolerance.”
The government plan was supported in development by the WCS, which has worked in Afghanistan since 2006 with support from USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), has been conducting conservation and governance building work in Wakhan District in partnership with NEPA, MAIL, and local communities. WCS was also actively involved in providing technical support to the Afghan Government in preparation for the declaration of Wakhan National Park.
“With all of the uncertainty facing Afghanistan,” said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper, “the news declaring Wakhan District as a national park is heartening. This declaration by the Government of Afghanistan will help the people living in this extremely remote area by providing jobs connected to the park and will offer protection to endangered wildlife and key watersheds and landscapes. WCS welcomes this pivotal move by the Afghanistan Government, and we are committed to continuing helping the people and wildlife of the Wakhan.”