Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Lehri Nature Reserve

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Some thirty kilometres northwest of Jhelum and just off the Grand Trunk Road lies a protected parkland spread over 17,000 acres of broken hills, stark rock faces and deep gullies. Naturally covered with phulai (Acacia modesta), sanatha (Dodonea viscosa) and wild olive, this chunk of land belongs to the Lehri and Jindi Reserve Forest. It is today known as Lehri Nature Reserve.

Being an offshoot of the semi-arid Salt Range, Lehri is a fragile eco-system because of scant subsoil water and depends largely on seasonal rains. Consequently, the wildlife that the area harbours has but a precarious foothold. This fact, however, did not stop rapacious and well-connected people to plunder the meagre natural resources of this reserve forest. By the middle 1980s the Lehri-Jindi complex was a moribund eco-system and it was very fortunate that it caught the official eye. With the idea of developing it to resemble the Lake District of northern England, work began on Lehri Nature Reserve in 1986. Some of the several seasonal streams that cut across the forest were dammed to form bodies of water and in times of good rains there are over three dozen ponds of various sizes. Two of these are large enough to be called lakes.

With grazing and timber collection restricted, the depleted forest made a quick recovery which was helped along by additional plantation of indigenous species. In a fit of misguided enthusiasm, the forest department also did not desist from planting large numbers of the fast-growing eucalyptus. Shortly thereafter good sense prevailed and this alien, water-guzzling tree was banned in 1991.

In order to protect the native Punjab urial (Ovis vignei punjabiensis), two chain link enclosures of five hundred acres each were constructed and stocked with this species. Not long after the establishment of the reserve, funding dried up and the first thing to suffer was maintenance. Seasonal floods broke the fencing in some places and the urial escaped into the wild. This was perhaps just as well for the dispersion of the ungulates in the wild gorges of the reserve resulted in an increase of another natural inhabitant: the wolf. Patient observation today shows that area is now fairly rich with pangolins (scaly anteater) foxes, jackals and the handsome but shy leopard cat as well. Seesee, grey partridges and chukor are also to be found in the glens of Lehri. As well as that, there are six dozen other species of migratory and resident birds.

Designated walkways in the forest afford the naturalist and the birdwatcher to observe nature at close quarters. It is advisable, however, to take a forest department guide before venturing out. A lodge in the forest offers reasonable overnight accommodation and cooking facility for visitors. Bookings for the lodge can be made at the office of the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) at Jhelum, phone number 0541 927 0031.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 09:24,


At 1 June 2013 at 10:54, Anonymous M Behzad Jhatial said...

This is perhaps something o ever dreamt to visit...

At 1 June 2013 at 11:23, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Go then and enjoy, young man.

At 1 June 2013 at 12:25, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

Is this park that is located right on the G T Road and is visible while travelling after Jhelum?

At 1 June 2013 at 13:32, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Nayyar, that's the one. But you have to go a few kilometres in to actually reach the lodge.

At 25 January 2015 at 11:53, Blogger Arslan Khalid said...

Excellent read

At 20 September 2015 at 13:25, Anonymous asif saeed said...

salman sahib there is growing concern in that lehri park is not safe for visit as there are outlaws hidden there.... is that true????

At 22 September 2015 at 10:24, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

I have no idea about the current situation, Asif. But then local idiots always try to scare away people. I have heard this every time I've gone to climb Tilla Jogian. Never experienced any unpleasant occurrence.

At 22 September 2015 at 17:12, Anonymous asif saeed said...

yes sir u are right i also heard the same abt tilla jogian but still went there to find it perfectly safe....... thankx i will try to go there insha Allah.....

At 4 October 2019 at 14:27, Blogger Syed Aamir Ishaque said...

I have visited the Park while going to Domeli. I did not ventured many kms inside the park as I was warned by Domeli folks that it was not safe. Some day when I have time and somebody to accompany me I will visit the park for overnight stay. There is presence of leopard in the area. In 2009 when I was walking around the hills of Domeli with wife and daughter we heard the growls of leopard and the animal followed us for a few hundred yards without being exposing itself. The reason was that my daughter just childishly threw some stones in a large den where it was probably resting.


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days