Pakistan leopard
The common leopard was frequently spotted by visitors of hiking trails in Margalla Hills and spotted on camera by wildlife authorities. Image Credit: Islamabad Wildlife Management Board

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is among the world’s most vocal proponents for climate action and nature conservation, has directed wildlife authorities to set up a leopard preservation zone in Islamabad national park.

The preservation centre will be built in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) where the leopards were spotted this year. The zone will help save the critically endangered species and conserve and restore their habitat.

The common leopard is the top predator of the park. The decision was taken as the population of leopards in the Margalla Hills was increasing and the animal was frequently spotted by visitors of hiking trails, especially on trails 4 and 6, according to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB).

Leopards spotted in Margalla Hills

IWMB has been using camera traps since 2019 to track the wildlife in the national park spread over 12,600 hectares. This year, the wildlife organisation released images of a female common leopard found to be a permanent resident of the territory. Park visitors have also been requested to stay on the marked trails and avoid the hills after it gets dark. “Leopards are nocturnal animals and at night the park belongs to the wildlife. Humans should not be using the trails at night” according to Rina Saeed Khan, IWMB chairman. It is illegal to hunt the leopards or harm them in any way.

Wildlife Information Centre

The prime minister also approved the establishment of the wildlife information centre on the Margalla foothills. “Preservation of the country’s national parks is paramount,” Khan said, stressing the need for inducting trained manpower and utilising modern technology to conserve nature. Khan also accorded in-principle approval to the National Climate Change Policy 2021 and the National Wildlife Policy 2021.

The presence of common leopards in MHNP indicates a healthy ecosystem in Margalla Hills, says Malik Amin Aslam, the prime minister’s special advisor on climate change. Islamabad’s national park is home to rich biodiversity, including barking deer, leopard, Chinkara gazelle, golden jackal, red fox, porcupines, pangolin, monkeys, wild boars and grey goral.