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The Snow Leopard Project: And Other Adventures in Warzone Conservation

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  244 ratings  ·  39 reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by PublicAffairs
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Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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 cr ...more
Tatjana Dzambazova
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 end
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
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!
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-b
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 St
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
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, bu
Morgann Gordon
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Conservationists, advanced readers familiar with science-related terminology
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
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Ben Truong
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography, memoir
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 Natio
Eva Pell
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Abhishek Kona
Dec 21, 2020 rated it liked it
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, th
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway, non-fiction
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 per
David Rudin
Apr 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I was searching for a book last year about warfare and environmentalism, and saw this was coming out. It finallyyyyy released, but it’s taken me a while to get through it.

Good book. Very informative. Some funny stories in there by the author, but the big picture is really just about how crazy hard it is to enact government programs in a conflict/reconstruction zone. Really interesting learnings in there that were eye opening.

My big complaint is that like most contemporary foreign policy/internat
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 al
Wiebke Kuhn
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 ...more
Melissa Guckenberger
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 qu ...more
El Cachorro
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 bea ...more
Kurt Kemmerer
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 r ...more
Kitty Galore
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
Michael Kott
Jan 28, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, garbage
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. ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
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. ...more
Kim Fisher
Nov 24, 2020 rated it liked it
In my opinion the author uses too much unnecessary detail, especially on information unrelated to the conservation efforts. But overall interesting story of all the crazy hardships and politics involved to eventually develop the first national park/protected wild areas in post war Afghanistan. Definitely more of a history book than biological, which is moreso why I personally have a lower ranking
Mike Parkes
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, conservation
Quirky and interesting stories about wildlife conservation in Afghanistan under (obviously) challenging circumstances. Also gives a good overview of the different natural regions and biodiversity of Afghanistan.
Oct 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Rating 3 - 3.5. There are some interesting anecdotes and experiences, but for where the author has travelled and what he has accomplished, quite a lot of his writing is dull, repetitive with an air of preaching.
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
DNF @ 50%

My loan on this book expired and I didn't finish it. I'm still giving it 2 stars because I did like learning about the history of Afghanistan and it's people. But this book was more about the red tape of building a national park than anything else. Which got a bit boring after awhile.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Almost any of Alex Dehgan's experiences in this book would make a great movie! My only criticism is that it (like many books these days) could have used a better editor. ...more
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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 ...more

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“Officially, the Iranian cheetah is thought to be extinct in Afghanistan, but I am sure a population remains. Dare mighty things. Go find it.” 0 likes
“Life in Afghanistan felt like a lottery where the grand prize was avoiding disaster.” 0 likes
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