Friday, January 27, 2023

First Leopard Preservation Zone set to open in Islamabad’s Margalla Hills

‘Leopard Preservation Zone’ to be launched near Kalinjar Valley and Trail 6 area in Margalla Hills National Park Islamabad

Leopard Preservation zone is set to open at Margalla Hills National Park of Islamabad this month, it was announced on January 1st, 2022.

Special Assistant to the PM on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, officially visited the “Leopard Preserve Zone” with the government officials, seasoned trekkers and wildlife lovers on the first day of the New Year.

The zone “will soon be opened to the public for limited guided tours” said the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) which has been involved in the protection efforts of the species in the park during the last six years. IWMB has contributed to the stability of the top predator and prey population and the preservation of the common leopards’ natural habitats in Margallah Hills National Park (MHNP), the only protected area in Islamabad Capital Territory.

Eco-guided tours

“By mid-January 2022, IWMB will offer all visitors limited guided eco-tours of the protected and patrolled area to see for themselves leopard markings/scats and their habitat,” IWMB chairperson Rina Saeed Khan announced.

During the visit, IWMB will also provide written materials for limited visitors on leopards and important wildlife living inside park like the Indian pangolin, leopard cat, Jungle cat, barking deer, wild boar, red fox, Indian porcupine, masked civet, golden jackal, rhesus macaque, Indian civet, Indian hare, grey mongoose and yellow throated marten.

“These unique tours will allow visitors (schoolchildren and college students will be given priority) to experience nature first hand by entering into a dense forest located right behind Faisal Mosque with proper guides who can identify wildlife markings.”

The trek is almost 1.8 km long and flat so it is accessible for most. IWMB aims to promote nature-based tourism and at the same time ensure regulations to protect this section of the park. In the future, other parts of the MHNP can also be zoned and better managed in this way. Currently, the first proper management plan for MHNP is underway and should be completed by February.

Study proves presence of leopards in Margalla Hills

A recent scientific study completed inside the park represents the first large-scale assessment of leopard occurrence, distribution and activity pattern within boundaries of MHNP. The camera trapping survey, conducted from February 2021 to May 2021, and study reveals that MHNP hosts a minimum of 7 individual leopards in an area of 17386 hectares.

“Out of these at least 3 individual leopards were found to be living between Kalinjar Valley/Trail 6 in the core zone of the national park.” This area has been closed to visitors since February 2021 resulting in ecosystem regeneration of the area and the return of endangered wildlife like the Indian pangolin, all monitored by cameras and with increased patrolling by wildlife rangers to ensure there are no intruders.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has now approved the establishment of “Leopard Preserve Zone” within the boundaries of MHNP.

IWMB will also show visitors documentaries on the leopards and other wildlife as a part of the guided tours beginning from our Visitor Information Centre at Trail 6 and hence increase awareness about leopards and their habitats. We intend to sensitize the public towards the conservation of these majestic apex predators who ensure the ecological health of the forest. Large carnivores like the common leopard are essential for ecological balance and their conservation is important in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

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