Is Tajikistan a good place to watch wildlife? Yes, it is.
What’s more, there is no need to dedicate your entire trip to the search for wildlife sightings. Schedule in a mere 2 days and you can already have some unique experiences.
The Pamirs, and particularly the border area with Afghanistan, is home to populations of Marco Polo sheep, snow leopards, bears, ibex, markhors and the birds of prey that circle them.
Community-based conservancies (CBC)
Thanks to NGO Panthera, community-based conservation areas have been set up. Expensive permits for trophy hunting fund training for rangers and community-based development. The money gets into the hands of villagers, which motivates them to protect instead of hunt the animals.
Although challenges remain, some success is already evident in the fact that populations are no longer in decline, and have even rebounded in some cases.
Conservancies are located in Alichur, Darshaydara, Ravmeddara, Shuroabad, Kisht, M-Sayod and Zong. You can find more information about the location, facilities, contacts for guided tours and possible sightings in each of these in this excellent brochure.
Alichur is the best place to see Marco Polo sheep. You can do yak trekking, and ibex and bears also roam in the mountains. With a good telescope and a bit of luck you don’t even have to leave your homestay.
Darshaydara, Ravmeddara and Zong are good places to see ibex. Landscapes are impressive, wolves and snow leopards have been sighted here and especially birdwatchers will enjoy these areas. There’s also plenty of cultural interest.
The conservancies between Kulob and Qalai-Khumb are known for markhors.
Between Kulob and Qalai-Khum
Kisht, M-Sayod and Shuroabad are located on the Darwaz Range on the border with Afghanistan, not far from Kulob. The main draw here is markhors.
The hiking routes are challenging, but if we disregard that for a moment, this might be one of the most accessible places in the world to watch these unique animals in their natural habitat.
Another trump card for the area is its location midway between Khorog and Dushanbe. It’s a good place to break the long journey, and so far, few people have discovered this overlooked corner of Tajikistan in their hurry to get to the Pamirs.
Can I see a snow leopard in Tajikistan?
Yes. Obviously, with a nickname like Asia’s mountain ghost, you know it’s not going to be easy, but it is possible. In summer, snow leopards keep a low profile at altitudes above 5000 m, and your chances of seeing one are slim. Winter is a much better time, when snow leopards follow their prey to lower ground.
You can get a good feeling for what it’s like to photo-hunt for snow leopards in Tajikistan in this trip report by Frans De Schamphelaere from 2019.