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Wakhan National Park (WNP) is home to about 15,000 people. The park borders China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. It is home to the headwaters of the Amu Darya River.

It is where the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains meet. Both the Afghanistan Government and local communities manage this new protected area.

The park provides ecosystem services. It also supports livelihoods in one of the world’s poorest and most isolated regions.

It is in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan. It has soaring mountains, alpine grasslands, and rare wildlife.


The main grazing slopes go up to 4,000 masl. Perennial species like Artemisia, Astragalus, Ephedra, Cousinia, and Oryzopsis dominate them.

They also have grasses like Stipa and ephemerals like Poa. Polo ‘sedge meadows’ are on higher valley flats. Carex, Kobresia, and Festuca dominate them.

Slopes above 4,800 masl have rich alpine flora. It includes Thymus, Saxifraga, Aster, Potentilla, Pedicularis, and Primula.


The park protects rare and vulnerable wildlife. It includes Marco Polo sheep and seventeen other mammal species.

The park also has carnivores such as the wolf, red fox, brown bear, stoat, lynx, and snow leopard. Mountain ungulates include the markhor and Himalayan ibex.


Overgrazing, shrub collection, and forest destruction are removing vegetation cover over large areas. Hunting and trapping threaten many large mammals and birds.

More Information About Wakhan National Park

Wild wolves, lynx, and brown bears come from the north. They live with snow leopards, stone martens, and the rare Pallas’s cat.

It is also home to ibex, red foxes, and Marco Polo sheep. They are the world’s unique wild sheep. Their horns stretch nearly six feet from tip to tip.

The image of Afghanistan is of a dry, empty country. But it has nine species of wild cats. That’s as many as all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Hunters pushed out cheetahs and tigers, reducing the number of species to 11. Wakhan National Park includes the whole Wakhan District.

It is home to about 15,000 people, with ethnic Wakhi or Kyrgyz. An agreement with the Afghan government allows the locals to stay in the park.

They will co-manage it with the federal government. Many will get jobs as rangers, managers, and other park staff.

Local people will also be able to make a living off the land. The land is too high for much farming. So, most people in Wakhan survive by herding livestock.

They raise sheep and goats. But some also have cattle, horses, and yaks. The authority still needs to create a precise management plan for the park.

But the idea is to have different zones. Some will be wildlife reserves. Others will be for multiple uses, including grazing.

The region has not faced threats from logging. It is because it is above the treeline. It also has not faced mining because it is so remote.

Wakhan National Park: A Great Place in Afghanistan
Photo by Frida Lannerström on Unsplash

But, it has suffered from poaching and overgrazing. Enforcement at the new park should help. So, the authority will continue ongoing work with local communities.

Each year, 100 to 300 international tourists visit the Wakhan Corridor. It is not a lot, but this is one of the poorest regions in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on the planet.

It is an area that is desperate for help. Even a few tourists make a big difference. Accessibility is part of the problem.

Getting to Wakhan takes some effort. An overland trip from Kabul takes a week. Though they recently added a new airstrip.

But, many tourists still enter the area through Tajikistan. Tajikistan has fewer security concerns. In 2008, National Geographic Adventure named it one of its “25 Best New Trips.”

The new national park will spark more visits. People add roads and trails and spread the word it will happen.

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