The Wildlife Conservation Society extends congratulations to the ​Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the establishment of the Bamyan Plateau Protected Area, a spectacular landscape of ​4,200 square kilometers with outstanding ecological, cultural, historical and aes­thetic value, nested in the remote central Hindu Kush Moun­tain Range.

At a ceremony here on Nov. 13, WCS joined officials from the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency, the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock​, provincial and district authorities of Bamyan Province, academia, civil society/environmental activists and local communities​ to announce the establishment of this new protected area, the fifth protected area created in Afghanistan and now second largest protected area in Afghanistan, after Wakhan National Park.

The four other protected areas in Afghanistan:     

1.       Band-e- Amir National Park

2.      Wakhan National Park

3.      Shah Foladi ​Protected Area

4.      Kol-e- Hashmat Khan wetland National Park

His Excellency Mr. Schah Zaman Maiwandi, the Afghanistan Director General of the National Environmental Protection Agency said: “The National Environmental Protection Agency is pleased to be adding a further protected area to the growing network areas for nature protection in Afghanistan. We acknowledge the cooperation of our partners in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, the Bamyan Provincial Governor and our international colleagues in the Wildlife Conservation Society, USAID, GEF-UNDP and EU.”

WCS scientists and wildlife conservationists were involved in all stages of the process to support the establishment of the Bamyan Plateau Protected Area, including through leveraging significant funds, providing technical expertise to collect biological and social baseline information, facilitating community engagement and consultation processes, establishing provisional planning, undertaking social and ecological monitoring, and mobilizing government and local stakeholders. The WCS Afghanistan team drafted the technical brief upon which the Afghanistan government based its decision to ultimately designate this new protected area

Said Dr. John Robinson, WCS Chief Conservation Officer and Executive Vice President of Conservation and Science: “The WCS team has been proud to work with the Afghanistan government to help establish the Bamyan Plateau Protected Area. In this area, the long and intertwined histories of wildlife and human inhabitants have preserved a rich and spectacular biological and cultural landscape. The creation of this protected area will provide the legal basis for the management and protection measures necessary to conserve this natu­ral and cultural legacy for the country and its people.”

Said Dr. Abdul Aziz Mohibbi, Bamyan community member who is the Chancellor of Bamyan University: "Declaration of Bamyan Plateau as a Protected Area in the country will provide livelihood opportunity as well as promote conservation initiatives. Though the priorities for the people of Afghanistan is security, education and food security, conservation should not be delayed to meet these priorities. Otherwise, Afghanistan will lose its pristine natural resources which cannot be compensated." 

With its spectacular scenery, abundant and globally significant fauna and flora, rich history and local cultures, Bamyan Plateau stands as one of Afghanistan’s crown jewels.

Camera-trap and observational surveys carried out between 2006 and 2018 have confirmed scientifically the presence of a number of flagship species in Bamyan Plateau, including the rare Persian leopard, Himalayan ibex, urial, and wolf. Many other species have also been confirmed, such as the Eurasian lynx, Pallas’s cat, wild cat, red fox, stone marten, long-tailed marmot, and Afghan pika. It is also home to animal species that have so far never have been recorded elsewhere in Afghan­istan, the southwest Asian badger and the boreal owl. Further found in Bamyan are the Afghan snowfinch (the country’s only endemic bird species) and a healthy population of vultures.

The new protected area has a high-altitude of up to 4,203 meters, rolling hills, remote valleys and breathtakingly steep canyons. The size of it is larger than three New York cities.

In 2011, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society stumbled upon a geological colossus in Bayman, the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge, a natural stone arch spanning more than 60.96 meterscross its base and more than 3,000 meters above sea level, making it the 12th largest natural bridge in the world.

There is also a long list of culturally important elements in Bayman including holy shrines, ancient cities and villages, petroglyphs, and old water mills. There is an impact crater of a meteorite, 50 meters in diameter and a depth of about 8 meters near the village of Dehbebood on the northeastern fringe of the valley rim.

Local authorities and communities hope that Bamyan Plateau Protected Area, adjacent to Band-e Amir National Park, could provide its strong ecosystem services, such as  ecotourism and climate resilience capacities for its people. Local communities gave support to the protected area project throughout the designation process.

Funders behind the establishment of Bamyan Protected Area Plateau include: USAID, GEF-UNDP, and the European Union.