With humans in lockdown, wildlife thrives in Islamabad

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Updated 30 April 2020

With humans in lockdown, wildlife thrives in Islamabad

  • 30 percent more wildlife observed at Margalla Hills National Park
  • Some of the animals that showed up are endangered species, which were feared to have disappeared from the region

ISLAMABAD: As human residents of Islamabad have retreated into their homes under coronavirus lockdown, wild animals feel emboldened to leave their lairs and make an appearance where they normally would not be expected. 
Ironically, one of such places is their own habitat. 
Suddenly freed from human encroachers, species which for long time have not been observed on the Margalla hills, have now emerged from their hideouts.
“We have seen approximately 30 percent more wildlife at Margalla Hills National Park,” Dr Anisur Rahman, chairman of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, told Arab News. "Wildlife was already there," he said, "But it was unobserved because of frequent human visits."




A palm civet is seen on a surveillance camera of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board at Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad on March 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Islamabad Wildlife Management Board)

The scenic park, which stretches on over 17,000 hectares, is one of the most popular leisure destinations for the Pakistani capital's dwellers, who every day disturb its original inhabitants with quite some foot and car traffic.
"There are three hiking trails and thousands of people each day used to go for walk on those trails. Also there are some popular restaurants in the middle of the park and hundreds of vehicles enter to reach them,” Rahman said.
As for the past five weeks, the park has been closed for public visit, some of the animals that showed up amid human absence are endangered species, which were feared to have disappeared from the region. Among them is the leopard, one of the world’s most endangered big cats.
In late March, only days into the capital city's lockdown, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board cameras started to spot leopards. "We have seen three leopards in the park, and they all were in different locations, far away from each other," Rahman said, clarifying that these were three different cants, not just one recorded three times.




A leopard is spotted on camera at Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad on March 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Islamabad Wildlife Management Board)

As they have left their hideouts, assured that people cannot see them, in a very short time the wildlife department was able to learn about the park's inhabitants and their behaviors much more than it would throughout years of research.
"The spring is mating season for birds, and during the lockdown we have captured on our cameras their rare mating dances," Rahman said, "Now we are in the process of analyzing all video footage and the department will be able to share some data or statistics on wildlife in coming weeks."
Social media posts about animals, especially monkey, frolicking through Islamabad's deserted streets have enchanted many people, creating an impression that nature is reclaiming what was hers. But reality is somewhat less romantic.
“We have seen an increase in the number of monkeys at the park and it just has no capacity to produce enough food for them," Rahman said, explaining that the monkeys now seen on the streets and entering private estates have been used to human food, on which leftovers they subsist when visitors come to the park and when its restaurants are open.




A fox is spotted at Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad on March 22, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Islamabad Wildlife Management Board)

Narratives that animal populations will retake Islamabad are naive.
While humans still remain out of the picture on trails of the Margalla hills, despite the Islamabad administration's decision to reopen parks on Tuesday, the rhythm of urban life will soon be back to its "normal" pace, and animals to their hideouts.

Video footage from surveillance cameras of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board shows animals thriving at Margalla Hills National Park in Islamabad amid the city's lockdown.


UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

Updated 6 min 49 sec ago

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

  • Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 
  • Deliberate vilification and negative stereotyping of Islam perpetuates ‘clash of civilizations,’ Pakistan’s envoy to the UN says

ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from the European Union and other western nations and India, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted a Pakistan and Philippines sponsored resolution on inter-religious dialogue that emphasized the need to respect “sacred religious symbols,” Pakistan’s state news agency reported on Thursday. 

The resolution received a majority of 90 votes, none against, with 52 abstentions, APP said.

Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over France’s response to a deadly attack in October on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to pupils during a civics lesson.

For Muslims, depictions of the Prophet are blasphemous.

Pakistan has condemned the recent re-printing of the cartoons. The French president has paid tribute to the murdered teacher, fueling further anger in the Muslim world. 

“Facing strong opposition from the powerful western bloc mainly based on freedom of expression, the Pakistan Mission worked hard to rally the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and other developing countries to garner support for inclusion of new elements in the resolution,” APP reported. 

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated calls to the international community and the United Nations to counter Islamophobia and promote respect for religious sensitivities.

“Ambassador Akram also emphasized that the deliberate “vilification and negative stereotyping of adherents of one of the largest religions in the world –Islam — only perpetuates dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies such as the ‘clash of civilizations’ and must be addressed on urgent basis,” APP quoted the ambassador as saying. 

“After some intensive lobbying, the resolution acknowledges — for the first time — the significance and respect for religious symbols,” the state news agency added. “It also stressed that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and must therefore be subjected to legitimate restrictions.”

“The resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination,” APP said, “and underlines the importance of interrelgious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, and peace and development in the world.”