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Conservation may offer common ground in Afghan conflict

15 / 04 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

War, drugs, corruption, and terrorism are terms Westerners are more likely to associate with Afghanistan than biodiversity conservation. But Alex Dehgan, a conservation technologist who runs the Washington D.C.-based Conservation X Labs and formerly served as the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), says conservation has the potential to offer a bridge toward a more peaceful Afghanistan. Camera trap picture of a snow leopard in Lower Wakhan-Badakhshan. Photo credit WCS Dehgan lays out his case in The Snow Leopard Project And Other Adventures In Warzone Conservation, a book published this past January. The book, which traces Dehgan’s unorthodox career from a biologist and legal expert who helped craft environmental laws in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union to his work with lemurs in Madagascar to his time with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) setting up Afghanistan’s first national park, argues that there is “an implicit understanding” among Afghans “of the links between conservation of the natural environment and their survival”. “Most people don’t realize that Afghanistan contains the western end of the Himalayan range, verdant coniferous and deciduous oak and cedar forests on steep hillsides, blistering red sandy deserts, Utah-like canyons and mesas, nor are they aware of its rich species diversity. Afghanistan is a country of brown bears, wolves, and caracals, hyenas, jackals and cheetahs, and elusive snow leopards, and at one point, tigers, and Asiatic cheetahs,” said Dehgan. “Eighty percent of the country is dependent on natural resources, and the fate of…

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