Afghanistan Officially Protects World’s Least Known Bird

March 1, 2010

The large-billed reed warbler, recently discovered by a WCS-led team, finds a safe haven in Afghanistan as the country adds the bird to its protected species list.

Afghanistan has offered the large-billed reed warbler, AKA the “world’s least known bird,” a permanent perch, adding the bird to its protected species list. The country’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) will strengthen its conservation efforts by adding an additional 15 species to the list, which now numbers 48 species.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) recently discovered the rare warbler in Afghanistan while working on a USAID-funded project. NEPA, in cooperation with WCS, took immediate steps to safeguard the bird, because the country’s laws automatically grant protection to newly discovered species. Such protection is crucial since Afghanistan may constitute one of the only known principal breeding habitats for this species. Previous to 2006, it was known from just two specimens: one collected in India in 1867, and a single bird discovered 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, six birds, and one tree. The set included two eagle species, a cat, and the striped hyena, all evaluated by the Afghanistan Wildlife Executive Committee, 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.

“By formally protecting the large-billed reed warbler as well as other wildlife, Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency has shown a strong commitment to conserving its natural heritage—even during these challenging times,” said Peter Zahler, WCS’s deputy director for Asia programs. “WCS believes that with 80 percent of Afghans directly dependent on their natural resources for survival, the country’s reconstruction and stability depends on sustainable resource management.”

Learn more about Afghanistan’s protected species list.



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