The federal capital is probably the only area in the country where wildlife enjoys its natural habitat without much disturbance and harassment despite the presence of people closeby.
Such coexistence among humans and wildlife is rare in other parts of the country.
Since 1980, the hills overlooking Islamabad and the Rawal Lake, including some areas around it, have been declared the national park, and most capital residents take due care of the natural habitat, especially in its jurisdiction.
The hill range, which nestles between an elevation of 685 metres at the western end and 1,604 metres on the east, is home to a rich biodiversity, especially Sino-Himalayan fauna, including the grey goral, barking deer and the leopard.
Monkeys and wild boars are the two animals on the Margalla Hills which are seen frequently. There are several spots on the route to Pir Sohawa where monkeys are clearly visible, and they are also a major attraction for visitors, especially children. People can be seen giving popcorns, chips, biscuits and even soft drinks to them.
On the other hand, wild boars can be seen foraging for leftover food at the garbage dumps in the evening. Other animals like golden jackal, red fox and porcupines usually remain away from the tourists.
Earlier, the grey goral, barking deer, wild boar and kaleej pheasant were poached extensively, which led to a sharp decrease in their population in the hills.
Islamabad Wildlife Management Board Chairman Dr Anisur Rahman, however, said frequent sightings prove that the population of barking deer and kaleej pheasants has improved.
The increased awareness among people about the preservation of wildlife could also be a factor, but it is the heavy presence of Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and other personnel in the area after emergence of Taliban a decade ago which brought an end to poaching.
A large number of enthusiasts, especially bird lovers, frequent the several hiking trails on the hills where they have seen a variety of bird species, including Grey Francolin and Blue Twhroated Barbet. There are seven such trails with the most frequented being trail-3, trail-5 and trail-7 at Shah Allah Ditta.
At present, there exists jurisdiction-related dispute between the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board and the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, which is why both are active on the hills.
Social activists, on the other hand, have been raising their voice against commercial and construction activities in the area as heavy tourist flow and a chain of makeshift hotels are also affecting the environment.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2019