Before 1992, the local communities had rarely been involved in the protection and management of the wildlife and vegetation resources of the area. People only knew that the reserved forest near their villages had been declared as a "National Park and Game Reserve." They had not been taken into regard as to the ways and means to achieve conservation objectives. However, since 1993, through the efforts of the Himalayan Brown Bear Project, of which Mr. Siddiqui was the community coordinator, many villages in the southern region of the Himalayan Mountains have initiated improvements for living in balance with their fragile ecosystem. Recognizing the need for further ecological awareness and local stewardship, Mr.Siddiqui founded ECHO. A new species of moth, Owadaglaea siddiquii sp.n (discovered in 1998 by Hungarian Natural History Museum's Lepidopterologists Mr. Gabor Ronkay and Mr. Laszlo Ronkay) was named after Abdul Haleem Siddiqui in honor of his conservation work with the communities and Deosai National Park. "My motivation arises from the fact that I am a native of the Himalayas, and have been working for the last 16 years in the field of wildlife conservation, management and promotion of community awareness in specific areas of northern Pakistan. Formerly there was not a sufficient degree of effective contact among the community people, herders, and hunters. The focus of ECHO will be to work directly with the local people in the wildlife habitat areas and to assist and inspire them to improve the quality of their lives while conserving their environment. I believe that so many individuals in the world leave their homelands in search of education, jobs and a better standard of living. Many of them never return to their native lands to improve the living situation of the people living there. Personally, it has always been my dream to acquire more knowledge and training, and then devote myself to the communities and their environmental concerns". Abdul Haleem Siddiqui, Director of ECHO
I personally and professionally, with the intention of developing Pakistani parks, have visited more than 33 national parks, quite a number of conservation centers, zoos/wildlife breeding centers and many recreational areas in the USA, Canada and Mexico. My investigations include the world’s first national park in Yellowstone, U.S.A. and many others:
I am impressed by the management, conservation strategies, eco-tourist planning and uplifting of the communities’ policies. During my conversations with most of the concerned authorities at the above mentioned parks, their incredible dedication and enthusiasm impressed me. I would say they are totally committed to their work--it is their life’s passion. In several of the Canadian parks, the tourist campgrounds were surrounded and enclosed by electric fences, which I thought was to protect the tourists from the threat of bears. However, when I spoke with the park officials, they told me that the fences had been designed to protect the bears from people. This is due to the fact that campers leave exposed food and ice chests in their camps, so the bears become habituated, leading to the eventual death of the animals. In virtually all of the national parks and Canada that I visited, there is extensive propaganda and education to save the bears. The slogan is “keep a bare campground. “ The word “bare” means “empty” (no visible food, lockers ice chests, etc.) This is a play on words with the meaning of “bear” the animal, as both words are pronounced the same. Tourists receive this motto on handouts when they enter the park and on signboards everywhere, even in the bathrooms. At some parks, the wildlife guards patrol all night to take care of the tourists as well as the wildlife. For example, their policy includes limiting the speed of all vehicles in the park and issuing citations to those drivers who do not obey the speed limits. These procedures are highly commendable. However, at the same time I am extremely concerned, because in comparison to those nations, Pakistan possesses some of the rarest species of wildlife in the world, but they are critically endangered. As a consequence of my visit to parks in other places in the world, I became aware that we must improve our Pakistani jewel of a park, Deosai National Park, through improved wildlife management and conservation strategies, while encouraging eco-tourism. Eco tourist planning and general awareness of the communities surrounding national parks.