Covid-19 brings animals in closer proximity of local residents Leopards, jackals, pigs even hyena spotted frequently roaming Margalla Hills

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Zubair Qureshi

As residents of Islamabad have limited their outside movement due to novel coronavirus that has claimed nearly 900 lives in the country animals’ movement is frequently spotted in the Margalla Hills. Some of these are savage animals like leopards, hyena and foxes that had earlier rarely visited these hills.
Is this because of their search for food or due to man’s sudden disappearance from their jungles that these animals are encouraged to intrude into the settled areas is yet to be known.
They have been filmed by the staff of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB).
However, whatever the reason, it cannot be denied that coronavirus has played a great role in clearing the way for these animals and emboldened by deserted roads and empty green belts, they have taken the liberty to descend to the populated areas of Islamabad. The city lies deserted with its main parks and hilly pathways almost closed for adventurers, hikers and bikers.
In its tree-covered hills animals instead of men can be seen enjoying a rare respite from the throngs of those fond of mountain sports.
Rangers in the Pakistani capital’s Margalla Hills National Park saw animal activity increase soon after the city was locked down in March to counter the coronavirus.
Federal capital’s normally reclusive leopards have been roaming onto deserted pathways, and social networks are rife with talk of purported sightings.
Motion-triggered wildlife cameras have been clicking away as animals explore areas they had long been nervous to visit.
“There is a big increase in the number of animals (seen) in the national park,” a ranger Imran Khan told media. “Wildlife is comfortable as there are no visitors here. They are wandering here comfortably, which is a good sign for the jungle,” Khan said. The park was locked down for about a month and foot traffic remains light as families, picnickers and walkers stay away during the fasting period of Ramadan.
Sakhwat Ali, Islamabad’s assistant wildlife director, said the space is home to 38 mammal species, 350 bird species and 34 reptile species including 27 types of snake.
Ali added that rangers are conducting a survey and had already noticed new creatures.
The Margalla Hills National Park covers an area of 12,605 hectares. The hills are a part of Murree hills and have their boundaries extended up to Khyber Pakhunkhwa (KP). It is a range with many valleys as well as high mountains.
“There are some species of butterfly which were not reported earlier, but these are visible now,” Ali said. Lockdowns in various cities around the world have seen urban wildlife grow bolder as people stay home. A gang of goats was spotted in a Welsh town and coyotes were seen exploring deserted streets in San Francisco.