Residents of Islamabad ran a mini-marathon that lasted nearly two hours on Saturday to raise awareness for the protection and preservation of the Margalla Hills National Park.

The seven-kilometre Mini Margalla Eco Marathon began at Marghazar Zoo and ended at Daman-i-Koh. It was organised by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) to sensitise Islamabad residents to the protection, preservation and promotion of the national park.

The organisers said the national park carries great significance for the people of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It contains freshwater sources, forests, wildlife and scenic splendour that gives residents the opportunity to refresh their mind and body.

The marathon began at around 7am with nearly 150 residents divided into three categories: participants above 60, participants between the ages of 40 and 60 and participants below the age of 40. Prizes were distributed among runners who completed the marathon in first, second and third place.

The Margalla Hills National Park has lost a few species in the last 15 to 20 years, the organisers said.

This includes the grey goral, said Inspector General Forests Mahmood Nasir from the Ministry of Climate Change, who was also invited to the marathon as chief guest.

Mr Nasir said a possible reason for the loss of the grey goral was over-hunting. He said the barking deer, frequently sighting along the winding road that leads up to Pir Sohawar, is following the same path.

“We need to save these precious species from disappearing. The green parrot has almost disappeared from the Margalla Hills and the Shakarparian forests, both protected under law for conservation reasons. The green parrot does not build nests but finds holes in dead trees to lay its eggs. Since the local administration cuts down dead trees and auctions them, green parrots are gradually losing places to breed,” he said.

He added that green parrots are extensively trapped with nets and chicks are easily available in pet shops on College Road in Rawalpindi.

“Green parrots are not only threatened in Islamabad but throughout the country because of extensive trapping,” he explained.

He mentioned that the new wildlife policy, the first of its kind to be sent to the Cabinet Division, emphasises, among other aspects, better cooperation and coordination between the wildlife and the forest departments.

“The policy is a much needed document to save our threatened wildlife from indiscriminate hunting and from illegally being traded out of Pakistan,” he said.

Originally published in Dawn, September 10th, 2018