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Endangered Afghan Deer Who Survived Wars Spotted After 40-Year Hiatus

Aug 17, 2016 04:15 AM EDT
Bactrian Deer
Feared that they were already gone extinct, Bactrian deer from Afghanistan made a surprising comeback.
(Photo : Ted/Creative Commons Image/Flickr)

A lone female Bactrian deer was spotted in Darqad district along the border of Tajikistan by Zalmai Moheb and a team of conservationists in 2013. It has been 40 years since Afghan deer were spotted in the area.

According to the Smithsonian, during the 1970s, researchers estimated that there were only 120 or so were left in Afghanistan. Zalmai Moheb wrote up his findings in a recent assessment of the Bactrian deer.

According to Moheb's recent assessment in the Deer Specialist Group newsletter of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a Bactrian deer or Cervus elaphus bactrianus is a subspecies of the red deer or Cervus elaphus.

This subspecies are found along the Amu Darya River, Syr Darya River and their tributaries in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Bactrian deer usually dwell in a Tugai forest. It is a riparian forest that makes up of woody and shrub thickets dominate by poplar, oleaster, tamarix and reeds, along the riverbanks and floodplains of semi-arid and desert areas.

Conserving Bactrian deer is already a challenge for those who championed the deer's cause. According to Moheb, it turns out that some wealthy people in Afghanistan keep deer as luxury caged pets.

Most importantly, these "intricately-antlered ungulate" live in one of the most dangerous places in the world, where wars are at strife, hunting and poaching go unreported, and with many of its people holding guns.

"Since the start of the fighting with the Soviet Union until the government of Afghanistan captured the area from the Taliban it was not stable. Anyone could do anything," Moheb says.

He adds that while there wasn't necessarily ongoing fighting, the area was rife with warlords and smugglers.

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