Violations by trekkers increase risk of human encounter with leopards in Margalla Hills

Published October 19, 2021
People trek on Trail 4 which was opened to the public early this year. — File photo
People trek on Trail 4 which was opened to the public early this year. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A recent risk of increased human-wildlife conflict in Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) due to repeated violations by residents of the area, particularly students, has emerged.

This was highlighted by Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan recently. The IWMB has placed clear markings and signs denoting “Ecologically Sensitive Area” with a clear warning that anyone found violating the restriction would be handed over to the police under section 21 of the Islamabad Wildlife (Conservation, Preservation, and Protection) Ordinance, 1979.

In a recent tweet, the IWMB chairperson shared pictures of violators trying to enter the restricted area.

She wrote, “If you see these signs on MHNP trails PLZ DO NOT ENTER NO GO AREA! We are fed up of trekkers illegally entering into closed off areas.”

She pointed out that most of the violators were students of a hostel located near Trail 6 and asked them to respect the law. Section 144 could be implemented in the area and this would completely ban entry or gathering of any individual in the proximity of Trail 6.

Most violators are students, residents of the area

In February 2021, around five common leopards including a female identified as Shezadi were spotted in the camera trap visuals of IWMB installed in Trail 4 and 6. This first indicated the healthy presence of the top predator in the national park. The MHNP has successfully emerged as a model of ecosystem restoration and wildlife habitat conservation after a thriving population of common Asian leopards have been reported in the park.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said the prime minister gave the go-ahead for establishing a Common Asian Leopards reserve in the MHNP, which would restrict public intervention through limited and guided safari tours in the future.

Pakistan Wildlife Foundation Vice President Safwan Ahmed told this agency that leopards were nocturnal animals that hunt at dawn and dusk mostly after sunset and before sunrise. “Leopards are very shy in nature and a solitary animal that desist from having encounters with humans,” he said, adding however, timings after Asr prayers, most likely after 3:30pm in winters and 5pm in summers were when the animals awoke. People should leave MHNP during these times as this could lead to an unpleasant encounter, he added.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2021

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