Hingol National Park in Las Bela, Balochistan - January 2011
Very few people have seen the Hingol National Park in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Its nearest approach is from Karachi. Most visitors tend to go to the Hinglaj temple, an important sight for Hindu pilgrims but we managed to go deep into the national park with the Offroad pakistan who have made numerous visits there. Their website is worth a look :- offroadpakistan.com/
Hingol National Park or Hungol National Park (Urdu: ہنگول) is the largest of National Parks of Pakistan. It is on the Makran coast in Balochistan and is approximately 190 km from Karachi. The area was declared reserved in 1988.
The park area covers parts of the three districts: Lasbela, Gwadar and Owaran of Balochistan province. It contains a variety of topographical features and vegetation, varying from arid sub tropical forest in the north to arid montane in the west. Large tracts of the NP are covered with drift sand and can be classified as coastal semi desert. The National Park includes the estuary of the Hingol river which supports a significant diversity of bird and fish species.
Currently, 20 staff members including 18 game watchers, two deputy rangers are responsible for the management of the Park under the guidance of the park Manager who reports to the Conservator and the Secretary Wildlife, Forest, Livestock, Environment and Tourism.
The shrine of Devi Hinglaj, the holiest among the 51 Shakti Peeths of Hinduism is situated in the park. It is a 15km trek from the main road. There is also a dirt track that leads to the site. Several thousand pilgrims visit the shrine each year.
Detailed inventories of wildlife were undertaken in 2006 and will be completed in the first half of 2007. Hingol is known to support at least 35 species of mammals, 65 species of amphibians and reptiles and 185 species of birds. Some 250 plant species were recorded in the initial surveys including 7 yet undescribed species. Many more species are yet to be collected.
The park forms an excellent habitat to wild Sindh Ibex, Afghan Urial and Chinkara Gazelle. Ibex is found in all steep mountain ranges and numerous in the Hinglaj and Rodani Kacho Mountain areas. Total population is estimated over 3000. The Urial populations are small and occur in isolated populations. The Machi and Upper Pachhri Mountains harbour the largest populations. Total population is less than 1000. The Chinkara occurs in good numbers along the great rivers (Nal-Hingol, Arra, Babro-Mar) in the Northern Plains and in the Harian and Maniji-Gurangatti valley areas. Elsewhere populations have been extirpated are very low. The total populations are preliminary estimated between 800-1200.
The Hingol River banks, estuary and mudflats forms an important habitat for migratory birds. About 40% of the bird species is related to water habitats. Migratory birds listed to visit Hingol include Dalmatian and Spot-billed Pelican, Sociable Plover, Spoonbills, Black Ibis, Black and White Stork. The Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) visits the plains and valleys.
The River Hingol has been nurturing crocodiles for centuries. The Marsh Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) occurs over large areas along the Hingol-Nal and some tributaries up to more than 100 km inland. The total population is about 50. There are several beaches along the more than 100 km coastline, however few tirtles visit the beaches nowadays. Historical records includes Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Green Marine Turtles (Chelonia mydas). The vulnerable Spiny Tail Lizard (Uromastyx hardwickii) a mainly vegetarian lizard finds its most western distribution in Hingol.
Mammals in the park include Leopard, Jungle Cat, Caracal and Indian Desert Cat, Indian Fox, Bengal Fox and Sand Fox, Golden Jackal, Sindh Ibex, Afghan Urial, Chinkara Gazelle, Honey Badger, Indian Pangolin, Hedgehog (probably more than one species), Indian Crested Porcupine, Indian Grey Mongoose, Five striped Palm Squirrel, Wild Boar, Cape Hare and Desert Hare, Cairo Spiny mouse, Grey Spiny Mouse, Persian Jird, Indian Desert Jird and Libyian Jird, House Mouse, Roof Rat, and Mouse like Hamster. Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) and Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) are on the brink of extinction. The Leopard and Caracal populations are low.
The park has very few caves/ grottos, including one in the Dhrun Mountains with a bat population.
Birds in the park include Houbara Bustard, Dalmatian and Spot-billed Pelican, Bonnelli's eagle, Imperial eagle, Tawny eagle, Golden eagle, Eurasian griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture, Cinereous vulture, Lagger falcon, Red-headed merlin, Kestrel, Close-Barred sandgrouse, Grey partridge, See See partridge, Stone Curlew, Indian sand grouse, Coronetted sand grouse, Painted sand grouse, Eagle owl, Sind pied woodpecker, Hume's chat, Brown rock pipit, Striped buning, Finche larks, Hoopoe, Shrikes and Wheatears.
The Marsh Crocodile, Olive Ridley and Green Marine Turtles, Desert Monitor lizard, Yellow Monitor lizard, and different species of lizard and chameleon have been found in the park.
The government is all set to slice land off the Hingol National Park, the country’s largest, as the Pakistan Air Force and another defence-related organisation eye the prized real estate near the estuary whose value is likely to increase phenomenally once the Gwadar port starts functioning.
Sources in the Balochistan revenue department told Dawn that while the PAF has asked for around 80,000 acres (320 km²), including 23,000 acres (93 km²) in the national park, Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission’s demand is for eight mauzas.