From Green Right Now Reports

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has released a rare photograph of a Snow Leopard and cub, taken in Afghanistan this fall.

The group decided to share the photograph, because snapping such a picture of the elusive and endangered leopard, with a cub, is “nearly impossible,” the WCS team says. It’s the first image of a mother and cub taken since the WCS began conservation work in the region in 2006. WCS works to save wildlife and wild spaces worldwide, through education and management of wildlife parks. It’s flagship is the Bronx Zoo.

Their goal is to change attitudes toward nation and help people see that preserving wildlife is essential to maintaining all life on Earth.

Snow leopards are endangered because of loss of habitat, poaching and killings by shepherds. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Redlist reports that only 4,080 to 6,590 remain in their vast range in the mountains of Central Asia.

Last summer, however, the WCS reported that it had discovered a robust population of Snow leopards living in the mountains of northweastern Afghanistan, in the Wakhan Corridor.

The discovery offers hope that the mountain cat could hold on when not persecuted by poachers or hunters seeking the cats for the exotic pet trade. WCS-trained community spotters used hidden cameras to document Snow leopards in 16 separated locations.

“This is a wonderful discovery – it shows that there is real hope for snow leopards in Afghanistan,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia Programs, said at the time. “Now our goal is to ensure that these magnificent animals have a secure future as a key part of Afghanistan’s natural heritage.”

WCS works with local communities to manage their livestock and help sustain the area’s wildlife, the leopards but also the ibex and the Marco Polo sheep. WCS also compensates shepherds for predation losses.

Working with the US Aid for International Development (USAID), the WCS helped created Afghanistan’s first national park, Band-e-Amir, which is monitored by 55 surrounding communities.