To Save a Snow Leopard: A Special Afghanistan Mission

The fate of a snow leopard — one of the rarest species on earth — riveted the powerful as well as the humble in war-torn Afghanistan

Richard W. Fite

The snow leopard that was caught by a hunter in Afghanistan and rescued by NATO troops

In a valley high in the Wakhan Mountains of Afghanistan, a hunter several weeks ago waded through snowdrifts to check his traps and found that he had snared one of the rarest creatures alive: a snow leopard.

If a naturalist had seen the leopard, he or she would have focused on its snowy fur with black, half-moon markings and its white goatee. A naturalist would have known that it is a solitary, elusive creature, a night hunter that roams the icy Central Asian peaks far above human villages. A naturalist would have known that there are perhaps less...