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Large mammals surviving conflict in the eastern forests of Afghanistan

Kara Stevensa1 p1, Alex Dehgana1 p2, Maria Karlstettera1 p3, Farid Rawana1 p4, Muhammad Ismail Tawhida1 p5, Stephane Ostrowskia1 p6, Jan Mohammad Alia2 and Rita Alia2

a1 Shar-e-Nau, Kabul, Afghanistan

a2 Wildlife Conservation Society, Waygal, Nuristan, Afghanistan

Abstract

We used transect and camera-trap surveys and DNA identification of scat samples to provide the first update since 1977 of large mammals in the montane forests of the conflict-ridden province of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan. Nuristan contains a range of habitats from oak Quercus spp. forests to treeless alpine steppes that historically hosted populations of markhor Capra falconeri, Asiatic black bear Ursus thibetanus, grey wolf Canis lupus and common leopard Panthera pardus, among others. Surveys conducted in 2006–2009 in an area of 1,100 km2 by the Wildlife Conservation Society confirmed the presence of some of these species, and also recorded the common palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, previously unknown from Afghanistan; this extends the westernmost boundary for this species. The most commonly recorded species, as determined by direct sightings, scat identification or camera-trap photographs, were the Indian crested porcupine Hystrix indica, red fox Vulpes vulpes and a canid (grey wolf or golden jackal Canis aureus). Despite indications of significant habitat loss and unsustainable hunting, globally important species persist in the area and targeted conservation programmes are required for the protection of these species, the forests they inhabit and the surrounding communities who depend on both for their survival.

(Received December 29 2009)

(Reviewed March 10 2010)

(Accepted May 07 2010)

(Online publication May 04 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Shar-e-Nau, Kabul, Afghanistan. E-mail stevenskara@yahoo.com

p1 Current address: Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resource Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA

p2 Current address: United States Agency for International Development, Washington, DC, USA

p3 Current address: Fauna & Flora International, Cambridge, UK

p4 Current address: University of Nangarhar, Jalalabad, Nangarhar, Afghanistan

p5 Current address: Wildlife Conservation Society, Kabul Afghanistan

p6 Current address: Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY, USA

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