Monal Restaurant to be converted into Visitors Information Centre for children

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ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Monday was informed that the area that was being used by the management of Monal Restaurant would be converted into a Visitors Information Centre for children’s education and awareness on protection of wildlife.

The Monal Restaurant was built by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and leased it out to a private firm for 15 years. The lease expired last year. A few years before the expiry of the lease, Remount, Veterinary and Farms Directorate of General Headquarters (GHQ) claimed ownership of the land where the restaurant was built on.

Last month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected these claims and ordered the CDA to seal the restaurant as it was being run in the protected Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP). Following the court’s order, the restaurant was sealed.

The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) has been taking care of MHNP.

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change visited the area to see ground progress on tree plantation, protection and conservation of wildlife and forests. Headed by Senator Seemee Ezdi, the committee was briefed by the IWMB chairperson, Rina Saeed Khan, and other officials about the wildlife in the hills and steps being taken for their protection.

According to a press release issued by the Senate Secretariat, “The committee was also informed that the area occupied by Monal Restaurant would be converted into Visitors Information Centre for children’s education and awareness on protection of the wildlife.”

The committee appreciated the IWMB for protecting and conserving the thriving biodiversity and endangered wildlife species of the MHNP.

The committee visited the IWMB Visitors Information Centre and Trail 6. The panel covered more than a 2km on foot to see the on-ground progress of conservation work.

Ms Khan said three leopards – two of them young and mature - have been left open in the 11km area that starts from Trail 6 and connects to Trail 4.

“The three leopards, Shezadi, Shezada and Sultan, are frequently seen on the main track. They marked it their territory which has now been reserved as the Leopard Preservation Zone,” Rina Saeed Khan told the committee.

Ms Ezdi lauded the efforts of the board and said it was the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to protect wildlife that was now thriving in the MHNP.

“We are being told that there are leopards near Trail 6. It is their habitat and we are intruding in their living space. Such habitats are not found in any other mega city. It is encouraging to see endangered species thriving here and we must play our role in protecting the biodiversity of this region,” she added.

The committee was also informed that the Leopard Preservation Zone would be opened in the coming weeks for tours through registration and booking. School children over seven years of age will be given free tours for educational purposes, the press release stated.

Rina Saeed Khan further informed the committee that 20 cameras had been installed in the area with high night vision and audio sensitivity to track leopards. Moreover, nine leopards are found in the area out of which a whole family is also identifiable through camera footage, she added.

The Senate panel was shown pugmarks and other traces of the presence of leopards in the area. “Leopards have adapted to humans being around them. It is time that humans adapt to their existence too. The special zone is established to provide them a peaceful habitat where their population could grow,” Ms Khan said, adding that fire season would start during the month of April, whereas recently a deliberate fire was ignited on Trail 4 to damage the forest.

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