Swine sweats: Wild boars summering in the hills

Urbanisation in twin cities compels wild boars to seek new habitats in upper hills

Boars rummaging through garbage in Murree. PHOTOS: MALIK GHULAM SARWAR

ISLAMABAD: Amid a sweltering heat wave and dripping humidity, the capital’s most famous non-human residents seem to have had enough. Wild boars have been moving north and up the hills as changing weather patterns and the unabated urbanisation of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and adjoining areas has compelled them to find new habitats.

The population explosion of wild boars in protected national park areas around Murree, Ayubia and Azad Kashmir is affecting the environment, and increasing food competition with indigenous animals is creating a great ecosystem imbalance in these areas.

“The increasing wild boar population in these areas is a great threat to the local flora and fauna,” Climate Change Ministry official Naeem Ashraf Raja told The Express Tribune.

Raja, who is climate change director at the ministry, said, “Their natural habitats have been degraded due to massive urbanisation and development projects, which forced wild boars to move towards the upper hills,” Raja said, adding that it would bring a horrible ecological imbalance and immediate measures are needed to control the wild boar population in the upper hills to save important fauna and flora in the region.

Due to a shortage of food, wild boars readily enter human settlements and attacks on humans were also reported in Murree and other adjoining areas, particularly in the winter.

“Sometimes they come very close to human settlements in search of food and attack people living in the area,” Zone Safari Director Muhammad Ali Shah told The Express Tribune on the telephone from Murree. He said that boars rapidly acclimatise to new environments, but they have problems finding food in the hills during winter.

Raja and Shah both stressed that town planners and civic bodies must ensure proper environmental impact assessments reports before launching any development projects. Wild boars are considered an agriculture pest and are found around the country, but usually at elevations lower than 900 metres above sea level.

The spread of irrigation in Pakistan and the development of irrigated forest plantations favoured the increase of wild boars in the Punjab, with populations as high as 32 animals per square kilometre in Mananwala in Sheikhupura district.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015.