Lowland flood-plains of the Amu Darya (Oxus) river, interspersed with tributaries and islands, c.80 km north of Taloqan, at 400-450 m. Extensive swamp woodland formerly dominated this region: vast tracts of reeds Phragmites interspersed with thickets of Tamarix and Salix trees and quite large stands of Elaeagnus woodland. However in recent years no doubt much has been destroyed and turned into cultivation as it has been on the north side of the river in Tajikistan and elsewhere on the river.
See box for key species. The site is virtually unstudied ornithologically but, together with Imam Sahib (site 002) further west along the river, it was known in the 1970s to contain the last remnants of Phasianus colchicus bianchii in Afghanistan. Other (probable) breeding species include Vanellus leucurus, Dendrocopos leucopterus, Acrocephalus concinens (possible),A. melanopogon, Panurus biarmicus and Riparia paludicola. Large numbers of unspecified wildfowl utilize the area on migration.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: in the 1970s the area was extremely important for the last remnants of two endangered subspecies: Cervus elaphus bactrianus and Panthera tigris virgatus (E; last record was of tracks found in 1967). However, the continued presence of the latter is now highly unlikely, and it is considered extinct.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Although formerly declared a Royal Hunting Preserve in the early part of the century, with restrictions on settlement, access, conversion to agriculture and hunting, it was never gazetted as such and no conservation measures were formally proposed. Habitat destruction is a very great threat which has probably reached critical proportions: the swamp woodland was being severely deforested and converted to cultivation by settlers in the late 1970s, following the overthrow of the monarchy. The area is currently a war zone. The lack of protected areas severely compromises the survival of any remaining significant areas of woodland. Both Phasianus colchicus bianchii and Cervus elaphus bactrianus were hunted extensively and without control in the 1970s, and their survival is in doubt unless surveys are carried out and hunting regulated. In the future, the potential damming of the Amu Darya river upstream in Tajikistan is also a threat to the integrity of the site, of unknown magnitude.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Darqad. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/08/2022.