Islamabad Zoo to be converted into Margallah Wildlife Centre

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Zubair Qureshi

At a simple ceremony, Wednesday, the administrative control of the Marghazar Zoo Islamabad was formally transferred to the Islamabad Wildlife Management board from the Capital Development Authority.

Since Pakistan’s lone Asiatic elephant Kaavan’s departure in November last year from the zoo, the Marghazar Zoo had turned into a haunted place without any animal as the Islamabad High Court had held the zoo administration was not competent enough to take care of the animals.

In line with the IHC decision, the Climate Change Ministry decided to set up the Margallah Wildlife Centre with Join Hands, a registered charitable Society in Pakistan on the Marghazar Zoo site.

Elaborating the details of the centre, IWMB Chairperson Rina S Khan said the Margallah Wildlife Centre would comprise a Visitor Information Centre for the Margallah Hills National Park and would in fact form the official entrance to the national park.

As soon as our PC-2 for the Margallah Wildlife Centre, currently awaiting the approval of the Planning Commission, is cleared a master plan for the centre will be developed and shared with the public, the IWMB chairperson informed.

The transfer was carried out in line with the directions of the IHC and while speaking on the occasion, Rina S Khan however expressed her concerns over what she called vague handover of Marghazar Zoo assets to the IWMB and regretted the absence of Chairman Capital Development Authority (CDA) Amir Ali Ahmed on the occasion.

The IWMB officials along with the Ministry of Climate Change had organized the handing over ceremony of Marghazar Zoo.

The IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan told the media persons that the CDA was creating bottlenecks in establishing the first ever Wildlife Centre in line with the Prime Minister’s clean and green vision for overall environmental sustainability and wildlife conservation.

“The CDA authorities wanted us to take possession of the entire Zoo property whereas it has also sought the Cabinet approval to take over the 82 acres land of the Zoo.

We have initiated the effort as per the Islamabad High Court Orders and these bureaucratic hiccups will mar the initiative,” she noted.

Rina said it was not possible to build a Wildlife Centre at a massive scale without clear possession of the land as its sustainability would lie in the doldrums sans complete authority over the asset.

“We are the legal custodians of the adjoining Margallah Hills National Park, mandated to protect, conserve and manage the national park,” Rina S Khan said.

The facility, she said, would recognize the need to address rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife.

“The Wildlife Centre will be a completely different place to what it was. We will make a commitment to address the rescue and rehabilitation of Pakistan’s most vulnerable species including our bears,” she added.

Member Finance of CDA, Rana Shakeel Aghar attended the ceremony on behalf of the Chairman and extended an apology for his absence due to some serious official commitment.

Speaking on the occasion, he said the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had ordered to hand over possession of the Zoo to the IWMB and not the land for which a formal process needed to be adopted by the Board.

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