A REPORT ON THE VISITS TO THE STUDY AREA IN THE MARGALLA HILLS NATIONAL PARK ISLAMABAD

 

Introduction:

The Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP)is the only national park in Islamabad Capital Territory, coveringan area of 15,883 ha. It includes the Margalla Hills Range (12,605 ha) running along the northern border of federal capital Rawal Lake, (1902 ha) and Shakar Parian (1376 ha). Elevation ranges from 600 m to 1600m above sea level. Topography is rugged and elevation ranges from 450 to 1580 meters. The general aspect is southerly and the terrain is interspersed with both large and small valleys. Average minimum and maximum temperature is 19.5 °C and 33.3 °C, respectively. The Margalla Hills are one of the western most extensions of Indo-Himalayan ecosystem. The hills represent a contact zone with the arid Irano-Saharan ecosystem, which extends southwesterly. The flora of the park is primarily sub-tropical evergreen scrub forest on the lower slopes and sub-tropical pine forest at higher elevations. The vegetation has been classified into five major plant communities based on physiognomy, floristic composition and dominance which include; Olea-Acacia, Acacia-Carissa, Olea-Carissa, Myrsine-Dodonea and Pinus-Quercus communities.The MNHP contains a remarkable diversity of ecological,cultural and recreational environment. It hosts a number of important and endangered wildlife species which include Barking deer, Grey goral, Common leopard, Rhesus monkey, Jungle cat, Jackal, Foxes, Small Indian Civet, Kalij pheasant, partridges and many other species. The MHNP hosts more than 250 species of birds, 38 of mammals, at least 13 taxa of reptiles and numerous taxa of other animal groups. Currently, some areas of the park are under growing pressure of visitors and resource use by the local communities which are adversely affecting wildlife. Hence, there is a need to gather information on various aspects of wildlife including sources of disturbance to its population and habitat, in order to have sound management planning for its conservation in the MHNP.

Objective of field visits:

Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi has entered in to an agreement with Himalayan Wildlife Foundation Islamabad for collaboration in research with a focus on wildlife ecology and management of wildlife resources of MHNP. Initially, three M.Phil. students of Department of Wildlife Management of the university have been engaged in the park for their thesis research during 2011-2012, as detailed below;

  Title of study Student Supervisor
1 Food habits of Grey Goral (Nemorhaedus goral) in the Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad Samia Tahir Prof. Dr. Iftikhar Hussain
2 Habitat use and population status of Grey Goral (Nemorhaedus goral) in the Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad Shahid Mahmood Dr. Maqsood Anwar
3 Distribution, Population and habitat of Scaly Anteater (Manis crassicaudata) in the sub-tropical dry semi-evergreen scrub ecosystem of Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad Shaista Andleeb Dr. Tariq Mahmood


Visits to the MHNP were conducted to;

  • Reconnaissance of the study area, roads/paths leading to the valleys in the study area,
  • Survey of potential habitat and distribution of target wildlife species, and
  • Selection of study sites for collecting data on wildlife species

Detail of Field Visits:

The tours were facilitated by HWF and Ms. Shadmina Khanum, Project Manager accompanied the team, other members of which included; Dr. Maqsood Anwar, Samia Tahir,Shaista Andleeband Shahid Mahmood. Field staff of CDA and HWF project provided guidance in the field.

The first visit was conducted on Saturday 26thMarch 2011 and areas were approached from the southern side of the park. The areas visited included the valley and ridges behind the Faisal Mosque (17 MF and 18 MF) and Kalinjar valley (19 MF and 20 MF). The vegetation at lower reaches in the valleys is very dense while it is scarce on the higher ridges. Granda (Carissa opaca) Phulai (Acacia modesta) Sanatha (Dodonea viscosa) and Beri (Zizyphus nummularia) are major vegetation found here at lower elevations. Due to livestock grazing in the Kilinjar valley, Sanatha has become more dominant here as compared to other vegetation which is probably more palatable. Scattered Chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) trees are found on the ridge tops along with Granda, etc. As grey goral inhabits the higher ridges with scattered shrubs with open patches between, the ridge tops could be the potential habitat of goral in these areas which will be explored during data collection. The presence of Scaly anteater was reported in this area which will be further investigated during the study.

Second tour was conducted on Saturday 11th June 2011 during which Siniary valley / Hamida gali (21 MF and 2 MF), Maira Bheri up to Kot Jandan (23 MF and 24 MF) and Boulder Pass on the border of ICT and district Haripur were visited. These areas were approached from southern border (adjacent to E-9 & E-10) of the park. Dominant plant species in these areas at lower reaches include; Granda, Sanatha, Bhekar, Btangi (Anaar), Phulai, Shamshad, Amaltas, Pataki, Khajoor and several grasses and herbs. Higher ridges have chir pine trees along with other natural vegetation. The area close to the villages is severely disturbed due to human activities such as grass cutting, fuel wood extraction (a number of people & domestic animals were seen during the visit), livestock grazing, etc. Hence, there are almost no chances of large ungulates including grey goral and barking deer in areas closer to the southern boundary of the park. However, deep inside the valleys and on the ridge tops, area looks undisturbed and potential wildlife habitat. Higher elevation areas with scattered chir pine trees here would be explored for grey goral during the study. The lower areas along the border of the park will be surveyed to determine thedistribution range and other aspects of Scaly anteater.

Third survey was conducted on Saturday 25th June, 2011 which started from Margazar Zoo along the main road leading to Pir Sohawa. First short stop was at hairpin turn before Damn-e-Koh (15 MF & 16 MF). Ridges in front of this, facing east are potential goral habitat; however, it is difficult to approach to those ridges from this side due to dense vegetation and steep hiking. This valley is a good and comparatively safe habitat for wildlife. There is a small dame downside the forest used by wildlife for water. Second short stop was at Banyan View point at elevation of 3300 ft. behind Dam-e-Koh which is MF 14. After that we walked on Gujri Bari track which starts from a branch road turns to Talhar from the main road and runs on the northern most ridges on the national park almost on its border. We walked on the track up to the fire picket which is probably the highest point in this area. Vegetation observed during field survey included; Sanatha, Amla, Phulai, Kalmeva, Shamshad, Granda, Timmer, Kamila, Bair, Kou, Chir pine, etc. From the picket different ridges were observed which are potential habitat of Goraland can be approached from that side for extensive survey of these ridges. Presence of Scaly anteater was informed by the CDA field staff in the area from where a road turns to Talhar village. That area will be explored form collecting data on this species during the study period.

Outcomes of the study visits to the MHNP;

  • The research team got familiarized with the project personnel, field staff of CDA and HWF,
  • The research team has seen the study area, roads and paths leading to different valleys and ridges of the study area,
  • Major vegetation in different sites of the study area was observed and noted,
  • Potential study sites for data collection on Grey goral and Scaly anteater were identified
    in the study area,
  • Some potential sites for Goral distribution were also identified outside the HWF study area, extending to the north, behind Damn-e-Koh.

Future Plan:
Based on the findings of the visits conducted to the study area in the MHNP and going through the existing literature on grey goral and scaly anteater, students will develop synopses related to their research topics during July-August 2011. These will be approved by the respect Supervisory Committees before final approval by the Directorate of Advanced Studies of the university. Consequently, students will start data collection for their respective studies from September 2011 through July 2012.

(Dr. Maqsood Anwar)
Associate Professor