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The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation

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The remarkable story of the heroic effort to save and preserve Afghanistan's wildlife-and a culture that derives immense pride and a sense of national identity from its natural landscape.

Postwar Afghanistan is fragile, volatile, and perilous. It is also a place of extraordinary beauty. Evolutionary biologist Alex Dehgan arrived in the country in 2006 to build the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Program, and preserve and protect Afghanistan's unique and extraordinary environment, which had been decimated after decades of war.

Conservation, it turned out, provided a common bond between Alex's team and the people of Afghanistan. His international team worked unarmed in some of the most dangerous places in the country-places so remote that winding roads would abruptly disappear, and travel was on foot, yak, or mule. In The Snow Leopard Project, Dehgan takes readers along with him on his adventure as his team helps create the country's first national park, completes the some of the first extensive wildlife surveys in thirty years, and works to stop the poaching of the country's iconic endangered animals, including the elusive snow leopard. In doing so, they help restore a part of Afghan identity that is ineffably tied to the land itself.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 22, 2019

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About the author

Alex Dehgan

1 book8 followers
Alex Dehgan is the founder and CEO of Conservation X Labs, which is focused on transforming the field of conservation through technological and financial innovation. Previously, he was USAID's first chief scientist in twenty years, and ensured that USAID became the global leader on employing science, technology, and creativity to help solve development challenges. Prior to his tenure at USAID, he worked at the Department of State on science diplomacy under Ambassador Dennis Ross, and later under Ambassador Holbrooke and the Office of the Special Representative to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was the William Rainey Harper Fellow for the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago, and was granted a Searle Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship among twenty-one other awards, fellowships, and grants he has received during the tenure of his career. He currently teaches at Duke University. He has worked and traveled in almost ninety countries across five continents.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Lauren.
493 reviews42 followers
September 30, 2019
Before reading this book, I didn't know or think much of Afghanistan's wildlife or natural beauty. I imagined a dusty, arid desert - that's what we're shown on TV. But now, after immersing myself in Dehgan's stories of the country, I have a sense of appreciation for the diversity and value of Afghanistan's ecosystems - from the lake valleys and travertine formations of Band-e-Amir (seriously, you need to see the photos) to the lush forests of Nuristan to the towering peaks of the Pamirs. Many credit Afghanistan for its rich cultural history linking the east and west through the Silk Road, but the same path holds an immense diversity of animals - many rare and endangered - on a sort of biological Silk Road.

Alex Dehgan, the author, is a conservation biologist who cut his teeth studying environmental law in Soviet Russia, researching animal adaptability in Madagascar, and building a scientific community in Iraq under the Department of Defense. He was tapped by the Wildlife Conservation Society to be the Afghanistan country director in their quest to create a national parks system, and he accepted. In the book, Dehgan takes you on a journey throughout the country, showing you the strange, dangerous, and sometimes downright ridiculous conditions of infrastructure, safety, travel, restaurants, and more. He showcases Afghanistan's remarkable natural beauty and wildlife, introducing you to animals like the elusive snow leopard, the rare markhor and musk deer, the coveted Marco Polo sheep (the largest sheep in the world). He explains the challenges of conservation, especially establishing conservation programs in a country with governmental fragmentation, fledgling agencies, an occasional lack of willingness to work together, but a determined and proud people.

I was amazed to learn how much of conservation is simply regulatory, bureaucratic, diplomatic, and enforcement-based. It makes sense when you think about it - in order to protect species that are endangered or threatened, you need to attack the roots of what makes them so, and set up enforcement mechanisms to bring the hammer down on those who ignore the animal's protections. Whether that's punishing the hunting/sale/trade of big cat furs (as in WCS's Snow Leopard Project), or setting boundaries of a national park and protecting the ecosystem within it (as in Wakhan), it requires a lot of coordination and diplomatic relations with many agencies, government officials, and most importantly, local stakeholders. I do conservation work occasionally in my job, and find this to be true even today in the U.S. - conservation is about both ecology and bureaucracy.

I would highly recommend this book because I guarantee it will teach you something new. Dehgan presents a fascinatingly unique story: can you imagine trying to build multiple national parks in a somewhat unsafe warzone? The book moves a little slowly because Dehgan is extremely detailed - he does not leave out an influential person, a harrowing journey, or a scientific fact about a relevant species. Skim it if you'd like, but you should definitely pick up this book.
Profile Image for Catherine.
20 reviews17 followers
May 5, 2020
Review of the book is 4 stars, but the experience behind it is beyond 5!

Readership - you might want to be interested in biology conservation, ecology, or NGO work before picking up this book. However, you’ve also got to be able to keep an open mind, be okay with a “documentary” rather than arcing plot line, and think critically about people and places. One of the largest issues with illegal wildlife trade is its propagation by US soldiers stationed abroad. Can’t detach yourself from reality for the sake of being on the defence. Lots of history incorporated into this story as well: invasions, etc.

Greatest takeaway is that the Afghan people want their beautiful wildlife protected because of its importance to their identity. And that, folks, is how they got not just 1 but 3 national parks erected during/around war periods.

Amazing work done by Alex: I was privileged to have gotten to spend my birthday at a talk he gave last year, and he was just as well-spoken in person :’) The epilogue is also one to read, with updates on the project. Truly impressed at the immense amount of tact, patience, and leadership — and humility — that went into this successful project with WCS/USAID.

(Honestly this book would have been a 5 all-round if my mind had wandered less while trying to tread it. The fold out of images esp maps is stellar.)
Profile Image for Ellen.
87 reviews
February 21, 2019
Dehgan’s account of his time with the Wildlife Conservation Society was interesting, and I enjoyed (if that’s the right word) the look at the history of Afghanistan and the current realities and challenges of trying to do conservation work there.

But this book really could have used a heavier editing hand to tighten the narrative and make it more engaging and impactful. The chapters are somewhat anecdotal and its hard to get a sense of a timeline. He starts to pull a lot of different threads, but many feel incomplete. All the while written in a style that’s heavy on detail and somewhat repetitive.

Dehgan though is obviously passionate about his work and I do appreciate that he documented his experiences. It’s not the best written book out there, but still worth the read if you are interested in wildlife and conservation.
Profile Image for Tatjana Dzambazova.
48 reviews1 follower
April 10, 2019
Ah, there is so much to say about this book!!
In a single sentence, I would just say: READ THIS BOOK.

If I am allowed to be verbose (which I always am, even when not allowed), I would say:

Read this book if you want to learn about Conservation in war /post-war zones and making an impact without the power of authority but the power of education and conviction

Read it if you want to laugh – Alex’s humorous story-telling makes you laugh even about mis-adventures and close encounters that could have ended quite serious..

Read it to get a glimpse of a majestic places in Afghanistan where you probably will never go and wonderful, beautiful, warm people that you will probably never meet, but we all should

Read it to understand that conservation can only be done in tight collaboration with locals and nothing less but high respect and care for their culture, religion, way of living.

Read it if you want to witness a mastery of fine-balanced diplomacy, crucial to success and winning the minds and hearts of those who rule or have the power to make important decisions

Read about the Asiatic cheetah, about the Musk Deer, the Snow Leopard.. .. about colorful markets, aromatic foods and the mastery of survival in the chaos of a confused, post-war society

Most importantly: Read Alex’s story to get inspired by seeing what a ‘Life worth living’ looks like

damn …I so much wish to have been part of that team!

@Alex Dehgan Thank you for sharing these rare life moments with the world. Your care, knowledge, experience and infectious drive and passion paint each and every page. What an inspiration and hope for solving some tough challenges ahead.

All: GIFT this book. I already gifted 5 copies and plan to do more. Gift it to those who have curious minds, those who care about the well being of the planet - people, animals, nature; Gift it to young people – who knows? You just might inspire a next ‘Alex’ !
4 reviews
January 12, 2021
An excellent book, I thought there was a superb balance between culture, history, geography and conservation which are all vital factors to consider when conserving an ecosystem in a natural and sustainable way.

Thoroughly enjoyable read!
Profile Image for Sarah.
14 reviews2 followers
January 7, 2022
Dehgan is a wonderful storyteller. This book opened my eyes to the incredible natural beauty of Afghanistan that I was not aware existed. It had science, history, and culture which made this a very interesting read.
Profile Image for PoachingFacts.
45 reviews16 followers
September 10, 2019
A deep and cerebral memoir, The Snow Leopard Project reveals the unique mixture of foreign policy, cooperation between agencies and NGOs, and a variety of front-line field work required for large conservation projects. The familiar yet startlingly diverse setting of Afghanistan is the backdrop for many of the interesting and amusing complications encountered by Alex Dehgan while working on the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Program.

Dehgan's memoir of his time with the reversed, US-based WCS is interspersed with interesting, not always "fast-paced," personal and historical anecdotes as well as background on his own experience working in the State Department among other interesting jobs. The Snow Leopard Project is also a fairly technical observation of the frustrations and challenges of wildlife conservation and humanitarian aid when mixed with international and regional politics. Dehgan offers poignant and humanizing insight into the workings of high-level conservation efforts coordinating with multinational agencies along with the logistics, leadership, funding, and security challenges faced by members of his team like many conservationists working in dangerous parts of the world. Through the context of setting up projects to support the conservation of indigenous snow leopards, Marco Polo sheep, and other endangered species of the region, he also speaks to the resilience of rural people and minority groups wronged by a succession of short-lived governments and Taliban rule. In doing so he makes it possible to empathize with their struggle and see the problems that they face as ones that can be overcome.

Although The Snow Leopard Project has fewer than 260 pages, it is dense reading that will be most accessible to academics, post-graduates seeking specific insight in the field of environmental conservation or humanitarian aid, and people who enjoy reading about politics. Its somewhat dry narrative doesn't make for the easiest reading, nor does it make the book an irresistible read. However the memoir provides a lot of insight into a field where there is no similar alternative; it also sheds light on the unfortunate bureaucracy that sometimes helps, sometimes hampers well-intentioned programs and is a struggle for small NGOs to overcome.
1,718 reviews7 followers
December 5, 2019
Am actually not done but up to chapter 5 so have read 98 pages. Sadly it is written with all the earnestness of a government report. The topic is interesting so I will come back to finish it but right now I have other ebooks expiring soon that I want to get to. Did finish later in November; it was a good chapter at a time type book.
Profile Image for timv.
281 reviews4 followers
January 20, 2020
I struggled with reading this book. I think part of the struggle was due to the book being a hodgepodge of
anecdotes and I also struggled with the basic concept of doing basic wildlife conservation survey work in such a intense war zone. In order to establish national parks that are effective, a country needs to have a stable government. Obviously this did not exist in Afghanistan, so why embark on the “adventure” other than to pad the authors resume and pocketbook at the expense of the United States tax payers.

I did enjoy learning about the various animals they were surveying and I wish he would’ve gone in depth about some of the animals food and habitat needs, etc. instead, he focused on the managerial and logistical tactics necessary to try to do this work within Afghanistan at the time.

I enjoyed his style of writing and he communicates clearly and pretty honestly. The photos of the wildcat skins worked with the text to drive home some of issues they would like to address.
Profile Image for Juan V. Ruiz.
8 reviews
February 21, 2022
A book about wildlife conservation during US invasion in Afghanistan? High expectations here.

This is not a book on snow leopards (the title could be "The Marco Polo Sheep Project" instead). It's a passional portrait of the time when Alex Dehgan directed the Wildlife Conservation Society during 2006-2007 in the country. If you enjoy books with an annedoctal register of events placed in the most wtf?! places, you'll probably enjoy this.

The marco polo sheep is probably mentioned 3x more than the snow leopard.

The author made a good job on describe the landscape, the geopolitics and biogeography of this poorly known country, and this is by far my favorite part of the reading.

However, there are two main problems with this book that made my reading experience a bit complicated.

The first is the annedoctal nature of the book. Each chapter is dedicated to one specific topic and the misadventures in which the author has envolved in the way. There's a chapter on the search on asiatic cheetah, a chapter on a diplomatic trip to China, other on a diplomatic trip to Tajikistan, other on diplomatics stuff with an iranian diplomate and so on.

Many chapters are just road reports, literally 20 pages of "we're heading to X to make diplomatic things", and then when they finnally arrive at the destination, the chapter ends abruptly. Why did I read all those pages if there's no climax?

The second and most important point to me is the author itself, who appears to bem a smug, self-indulgent person. OK, he's passional on his work and (apparently) very dedicated to it, but through the pages my impression is that the text itself was writed to appears like a hero story, an epic tale in which our brave protagonist must overcome a thousand difficulties to reach his goal. It don't soars sincere.


And, as the last straw, there's the fucking american pose, in which he explain many times to the locals that "the americans are here to help you". Dehgan is the first generation of american-born in his family (his parents are iranians), and as much as he recognizes and seeks to identify with his ancestry, he's still an american. In some moment, he advances on a young, inexperienced guard who is pointing an AK-47 at him and his staff, disarms the boy (who knows how) and starts literally yelling "is this how you treat those who are here to help you?"

This posture is, at least for me, present through the book, so everytime when he describes the kindness, the hospitality of the natives and the people he have to deal with (yes, there's a lot of toady-moments here), sounds like something artificial, just... diplomacy.

By the end of the day, I don't appreciated this book as I've expected. If it focused more on the conservation part through a more impartial narrative instead of an egoccentric one, it would have been better, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Morgann Gordon.
18 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2020
Let's start off by saying that my 3-star review belies my true enjoyment for this book. Good news first bad news last? Okay then, here we go...

What I liked
1. The science behind the story. I know I'm a broken record, but my career is important to me, so as a trained Biologist, I loved the why behind this book. I feel like for me, Dehgan didn't need to explain to his audience why conservation is crucial, why this book is essential, and why the longevity of his work is critical. For most, this is not inherent knowledge, and admittedly, I learned a lot.

2. The story itself. This book enveloped my heart and soul, my dutifully tainted, science-soul. I soaked up every ounce of what Dehgan said regarding conservation, not only of the environment and natural resources, but of culture and people. His stories seem incredulous, impossible and impressive and yet I find myself telling seemingly similar unbelievable stories about field work and hobbies related to the environment (like the time I came a few seconds away from drowning while SCUBA diving, and immediately upon surfacing having my mask fill with blood).

3. The way that Alex paints the Afghan people. I feel like we are fed the most horrific stories about other cultures, especially in times of war and unrest. But deep down I have faith that humans are innately good, and we are a product of our environment.

Here's why I took away the 4th star (and still debate if it's worth putting back)
1. (Broken record here!) I went to school for 5 years, studied biology from dawn until dusk, for 5 years. Spent every moment of those 5 years training myself to think the way a biology student has to think. Here's the kicker, I needed every ounce of those 5 years to make this book matter. There is so much science jargon in this book that even I skipped over it. Sometimes Dehgan explains, very succinctly, what it means. But more often than not, he doesn't. So be prepared with a dictionary or your local biologist when you pick up this book (if you don't have a background in natural science).

2. Oh my good god the acronyms. Enough said. Even the appendix at the was was not useful because of how often they are used. And forget annotating..

3. I like humbleness in authors. Granted Dehgan admits that his counterpart, Kara, reminds him repeatedly to be humble, it's still pretty potent in his writing.

Overall, this is one of the highlighted books on my shelf that I hope people will ask me about. Consequently, I learned a lot about capture myopathy in ungulates (see what I mean about science jargon??) and science policy and conservation in war-torn countries.
Profile Image for Harry.
136 reviews17 followers
March 16, 2020
Although it suffers in places for a lack of cohesive vision—is this a political report justifying further spending on a program? A journalistic narrative of life in Afghanistan? A précis sketch of the biodiversity and ecology of the Pamir region? Dehgan seems to attempt all of these and succeed only in being slightly muddled—The Snow Leopard Project is, nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable book. The conservation elements of the story are not its strong points, often seeming to play second fiddle in Dehgan's interests as well as his writing. The dominant theme is the writer's respect, awe and pride in Afghanistan and the Afghan people. When he turns to describing Afghanistan's landscape—Bamiyan, Band-e-Amir, Nuristan, Wakhan—Dehgan's prose soars, lucid and lyrical. He doesn't deal so impressively with the mundanities of life as an NGO officer in Kabul, although he makes an effort to spice those passages with jokes and anecdotes.

Dehgan's admiration for the Afghans is clear and unfeigned, but comes hand-in-hand with an American solipsism that's hard to ignore. There is not one line in the entire book when the author reflects on why, exactly, he (not to mention the thousands of the US soldiers and military contractors he engages with) is present in a country on the opposite side of the planet to their homes, among people who don't want them there. In one scene Dehgan, when an Afghan security officer points an AK-47 at him, knocks the man down, turns the gun on him, and screams "is this how you treat people who are helping you?" Had he put some more thought into that anecdote, and examined his position vis-a-vis being an American in Afghanistan and how much unrequested "help" America has brought that unhappy country, the book could have been elevated from interesting to important. A similar scene occurs when Dehgan is approached and questioned about where he comes from by a group of Afghan children. His fear and insecurity are well expressed, but there is no effort—not even a hint of understanding why we might expect an effort—to delve deeper into why they might feel hostile toward Americans.

This was a fun and occasionally (especially where it touches on Afghans' own pride in and desire to protect their natural environment) inspiring read, but fails to reach—fails, in fact, even to reach for—transcendence from enjoyable to powerful.
5,870 reviews130 followers
April 15, 2019
The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation is an autobiographical memoir written by Alex Dehgan, an evolutionary biologist. This book chronicles his work with the Wildlife Conservation Society to establish Afghanistan's first National Park.

First arriving in Kabul in 2006, Dehgan realizes early on that success for the ambitious project would depend if there was sufficient wildlife left in the country, if the government and its people would even be interested in a National Park, considering they have other things to worry about, and his team could do their work despite the daunting security problems they faced.

With clarity and a bit of awe, Deghan describes Afghanistan's great geological past and its dramatic and largely unappreciated biodiversity. In addition to deserts, it contains thick coniferous forests, home to Asiatic black bears, flying squirrels, and wolves. Shallow lakes and wetlands host waterfowl, pelicans, and flamingos, while the mountains provide essential habitats for snow leopards, Marco Polo sheep, and golden eagles.

Dehgan also touches on nitty-gritty procedural details, such as setting up offices and hiring local staff, and on larger concerns, such as the advantages of scientific cooperation. In so doing, he leaves readers with an optimistic message that, in any sphere of life, effective collaboration toward common goals can benefit everyone.

The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation is a wonderfully written account and struggles that Dehgan and his team had to go through in order to create Band-e Amir National Park – Afghanistan's first National Park. It is a surprising revelation to find out the great bio-diversity of Afghanistan.

All in all, The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation is an wonderful account of the struggles and victories that went into creating the first National Park of Afghanistan.
7 reviews
December 30, 2019
I have just completed The Snow Leopard Project and other adventures in warzone conservation, by Alex Deghan. What a gift this book is for anyone concerned with the perils of shrinking biodiversity, the plight of the nation of Afghanistan and its diverse human population, and the machinations of international/governmental bureaucracy. Deghan uses his lens as a biologist, a member of an NGO—WCS, a former and future civil servant, and as a first generation Iranian-American to describe how he led an assemblage of incredibly talented individuals to create the nation’s first national park. Most of us think of Afghanistan in a narrow context related to war and cultural strife. This book helps paint a far richer canvas, as Deghan describes incredible physical beauty and human kindness hard to imagine after all the assaults and tragedies these people have endured. Deghan does an excellent job explaining enough about species endangerment and extinction, for a lay audience to grasp how it happens and why it is a problem—accomplished without pontificating or getting bogged down. He has a wonderful way of describing the peril of working in a country where human threats, land mines, and natural terrain present danger at every turn. While the effort to “sell” the idea of a national park seem insurmountable, Deghan and his team seem to forge every barrier through a blend of street smarts, tenacity, and commitment. Deghan’s empathic discussion of the people he encounters, combined with his sense of humor, leave the reader believing in the mission WCS set out to achieve, and perhaps even more important, about the humanity of this country despite all that has happened. A very worthwhile read for anyone interested in this part of the world, and how it has impacted all of our lives.
Profile Image for Abhishek Kona.
238 reviews6 followers
December 21, 2020
The book tracks the experience of Alex Dehgan a state department bureaucrat with a background in conservation in Afghanistan. After the US led invasion, Alex relocates to Afghanistan to set up conservation program.

The challenges for conservation in Afghanistan are about setting norms while aligning different groups and managing the massive bureaucracy of USAID. Ales and his team mostly deal with Afghans, Tajiks and Persian officials and their egos.

The book was great at describing Afghanistan, the landscape and the people—akin to a travel book. But it is very broad and did not focus on any particular topic a lot. It is a decent insight into post invasion Afghanistan but found nothing of import about the Snow Leopard. The title was a click bait to use the popular book "The Snow Leopard". This book is not about the authors journey of self discovery or the animal "Snow Leopard".

The abrupt ending made believe that the author was in Afghanistan for two-three years to build his resume. He did not stay back to see through his conservation efforts. This poor explanation of him leaving left a bad taste.

A good book about an Aid workers life in Afghanistan, not so much about the Snow Leopard or conservation.
Profile Image for Marc Winter.
14 reviews
January 2, 2022
The idea of this book is quite fascinating- warzone conservation, I didn’t even know that was a thing!
Subject matter is fascinating. As an American, I’m used to a very specific image of the Middle East: desert and destruction.
What an eye-opening experience. I had no idea such breathtaking places like Band-e-Amir or the entire region of Wakhan existed. Nor was I aware of the extent of Afghanistan’s biodiversity.

All of that being said, this book was a bit of a slog for me at times. Unfortunately, I approached the book from a single vantage point of it being informative. I didn’t consider the human element once throughout the read, how brave Alex and his team would have to be to prioritize conservation efforts in an active warzone. The indomitable spirit they’d exhibit despite constant challenges.

It wasn’t until the final paragraph that the lightbulb came on for me:
“Officially, the Iranian cheetah is thought to be extinct in Afghanistan, but I am sure a population remains. Dare mighty things. Go and find it.

This is an excellent, albeit dense book on the topic of Middle Eastern conservation efforts.
5 reviews
December 2, 2022
I absolutely loved this book! You don't think of Afghanistan or Central Asia first when you think of wildlife conservation and biodiversity but this book did a really good job of shedding light on the unique ecosystems there, how they've been affected by humans, and how humans are working together to reduce their impact. I found Alex Dehgan to be a good writer with a nice voice and sense of humor where necessary. I enjoyed following his narratives and anecdotes. You really get a sense of just how difficult it is to achieve these major milestones in such a complicated environment as Afghanistan emerging from 30 years of war. Though I am interested in biodiversity and conservation, he didn't get mired down in the details and I would feel comfortable recommending this to someone who wasn't as familiar with this topic. I found every chapter interesting, intriguing, engaging, and accessible - different, yet tied together by similar threads. You learned just as much about people as you did about the environment. Would definitely recommend this book!
234 reviews
November 6, 2018
I was randomly selected to receive an ARC from Public Affairs as part of a book giveaway they sponsored.
It is apparent from the very beginning the author's love for Afghanistan and his devotion to conservation across the planet. Where it bogged down for me was the minute details of team building of each and every event. I understand why and appreciate the author's desire to acknowledge everyone's contributions but for the average reader, it gets a bit tedious. The best parts for me were his personal stories from his field work.
This is more than a book documenting conservation work in Afghanistan. It is a meticulously researched book containing information on the country's peoples, history, politics, geography, wildlife and geology.
As this was an ARC, the index pages were blank. Hopefully the finished product will include a glossary for all of those alphabet agencies and maps of the regions.
136 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2021
An adventure yarn with a conservation spin is how I’d describe Dehgan’s wild ride working for a conservation NGO in war torn Afghanistan. Without a doubt the first thing you have to do is tip your cap to someone like Dehgan who is passionate enough about wildlife conservation to risk it all in the quest.

I enjoyed the overviews of conservation planning, the “inside-baseball” on how these projects get put together and the drama of trying to get people to work for shared goals. I would have liked more actual in the field stories with actual wild animals, like the brief tease from legendary conservationist George Schaller’s lone paragraph doing some field work on one of these projects. Unfortunately the wild creatures, even the eponymous Snow Leopard are relegated to supporting roles. This book is about humans, their violence, stupidity and sometimes amazing bravery and kindness in working for a better world.
Profile Image for Sierra.
Author 2 books23 followers
June 26, 2019
This was a very interesting book, although I only gave it 4 out of 5 stars as some of the writing lost me in a couple places.  Otherwise, it was great!

Alex Dehgan arrives in Afghanistan in 2006 in hopes to build the Wildlife Conservation Society's Afghanistan Program, and preserve and protect Afghanistan's unique and extraordinary environment, which had been decimated after decades of war.  Quite honestly, I never thought about wildlife in that area and what war would do to their home.  I was also surprised at all the animals that actually live there!
Alex found out that conservation actually provided a bond between his team and the people of Afghanistan.  The team worked unarmed in some of the most dangerous places in the country.  Some were so remote that winding roads would just disappear, and travel was on foot, yak, or mule. 

This is Alex's account as he and his team helped create the country's first national park, completes the some of the first extensive wildlife surveys in thirty years, and works to stop the poaching of the country's endangered animals, including the elusive snow leopard.  Some of these animals somehow even navigate mine fields, which is why no one had really ventured into finding out what was still out there and alive after all these years of war.
591 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2019
While the larger story and embedded stories are quite interesting, I was wishing for more skilled editing to reduce repetition and some wordiness. However, one could argue that the style of the book echoes the ridiculous bureaucratic structures the narrator is encountering while trying to establish national parks in Afghanistan and protecting its wild animals. The contrast between the Kafkaesque processes and the progress made because one or two people make careful and caring decisions is quite interesting. The contrast between the war-torn country and its beautiful corners is just as interesting. Afghanistan sounds like an amazing country to visit, if it were not for the land mines and ongoing instability.
Profile Image for Melissa Guckenberger.
2 reviews22 followers
March 3, 2019
Warzone conservation is a topic I find personally fascinating and extremely important. This book covers an array of topics ranging from pure conservation to history, culture, and the people that make up modern day Afghanistan. The author is humble, articulate, and clearly full of admiration for Afghanistan and his Afghan colleagues. I can see why some may suggest better editing, but I can imagine that finding a way to tell this story even more succinctly would be difficult. I found it to be a quick and engaging read that addresses the many issue areas with which conservation intersects and yields insight into the current and future state of wildlife conservation.
Profile Image for Harry Reads.
33 reviews12 followers
January 4, 2020
I enjoyed being led through the afghan wilderness by a wildlife guide, and not told only the story of war. Of course the scars of war - destruction, violence, and pessimism - are not avoided, but they frame a story of hope. Light can be found in darkness, if you follow a conservationist with a head lamp and stubbornness for proving an extinct species lives (still have my fingers crossed for that Asiatic cheetah). There are humans on the brink, and yet there signs of optimism, descriptions of beautiful landscapes and cultural heritage, personal stories and the sense that all life - wild and human - can survive and thrive in that special place, if only given the chance. Give this a read!
Profile Image for Kurt Kemmerer.
136 reviews10 followers
February 23, 2019
The book gets four stars for the content, but the author would have benefitted from some good editing. Still. The stories offer both hope and despair, and should be better known. The corruption and waste of dollars in Afghanistan during the author’s time there is appalling, but hope for improvement, for science to lead the way at USAID are offered, though with much less detail. Still, the creation of National Parks in Afghanistan, the stories of the people of that country, ought to inspire the reader.
154 reviews1 follower
August 21, 2019
While it appears this book has thus far received mainly favorable reviews, I found it seriously lacking in information regarding the snow leopard. Mr. Delgan instead wrote in extensive detail about the difficulty of setting up the offices and obtaining jurisdiction over the wild animal project. When he finally got to the actual encounters with animals, it became serious avoidance (metaphorically). There was no real substance here.
Profile Image for Michael Kott.
Author 9 books17 followers
January 28, 2021
This book is terribly mistitled. All it is is a book of the Afghanistan War with a slant toward Iran. No snow leopards and very little conservation which is what I was looking for. I've had it with IED's mine fields and the like. I just completed an excellent book, War, about the conflict in Afghanistan. If you are writing a novel about the war, title it that way. This was a complete waste of time.
Profile Image for Michaela Paule.
30 reviews
July 17, 2021
I was hoping to get snow leopard and Afghanistan...I got a LOT of Afghanistan, not so much about the actual animals. And yes sometimes it was a bit hard to read - that being said this book overall was excellent and the story behind it even more so! It was fascinating, scary, daring, mind-blowing, sometimes funny, eye-opening. Thank you for this book Alex and for all that you and your team did and keep doing!
Profile Image for Jordan.
92 reviews5 followers
December 25, 2021
Very deeply enjoyed this. Some of the editing is a little rough but eh, who cares. For real for real stories of field biology in complicated places, and made me want to run off somewhere unusual to try the allegedly impossible again. "In the end, like all my adventures, I had a love-hate relationship with [it]. It had been a place of considerable challenge to me physically and emotionally, but looking back, it defined my core identity and who I became." IYKYK.
Profile Image for Amanda.
422 reviews13 followers
October 15, 2019
I agree with some other reviewers that a bit more editing could have improved this book—I occasionally had to skim over some tedious and unnecessary detail. However, I enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it about international conservation work and about Afghanistan. I also appreciated the author’s humorous anecdotes breaking up the very heavy subject matter.
Profile Image for Melyssa.
184 reviews4 followers
November 1, 2019
Really interesting book; I had never thought of how the wildlife fares in armed conflict zones. Glad to know that the group's efforts in Afghanistan made a difference, and that the endangered wildlife habitats were protected. The author is clearly well-informed and has led an interesting life... I just wish he had employed a better editor for some of his ramblings.
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