PRESERVING biodiversity is low on the list of priorities of both state and society. However, successful attempts at living in harmony with nature and preserving the flora and fauna of this country should be applauded and replicated. While Islamabad’s Margalla Hills are known as a picturesque tourist spot, the capital’s woodlands are also a haven for diverse creatures and plant life. Of late, it has been observed that many animals that had been driven deep into the woods by human activity are now making a return to the areas closer to the trails frequented by tourists and nature lovers. Talking to this paper, the head of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board said that beasts such as porcupines, Khalij pheasants and foxes have begun to roam relatively freely and reclaim their habitat. Even a leopard — a creature of the night — was spotted by camera traps on the prowl during the day. Much of the animals’ newfound freedom is the outcome of the leopard sanctuary set up by the wildlife board and designed to minimise human impact on the big cat’s habitat. In fact, visitors are now taken on guided tours to view the animals’ natural habitat.
Such small-scale interventions can be replicated in other parts of the country where biodiversity is threatened by human activity. For example, Sindh’s lakes, including Keenjhar and Haleji — which are havens for migratory birds — as well as other spots across Pakistan can be developed as proper wildlife sanctuaries, with input and participation from local communities. For too long, human beings, in the name of ‘development’, have encroached on nature. Now, a progressive vision is needed to help protect biodiversity, and the advantages a flourishing ecosystem can give, free from pollution and other destructive human intrusions. Such natural preserves can also be developed to promote sustainable tourism, though people would need to be sensitised about respecting the animals’ space, and not littering. Instead of driving species to extinction, let us learn to share the planet with them.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022