Lal Sohanra National Park: One of South Asia's largest national park...
Lal Sohanra National Park: One of South Asia's largest national park...

One of South Asia's largest national parks, Lal Sohanra is one of the national parks of Pakistan situated in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab province. Lal Sohanra national park is a UNESCO declared Biosphere Reserve and is notable for the diversity of its landscape, which includes desert, forest and wetland ecosystems.

The park itself is situated some 35 kilometres east of Bahawalpur and presents a synthesis of forest and desert life. It occupies land on both sides of Desert Branch canal, and is spread over an area of 127,480 acres, out of which 20,974 acres are irrigated plantations, 101,726 acres are dry desert land, and 4,780 acres are wet land comprising of ponds and lakes. The park's terrain is generally flat, with here and there scattered sand dunes measuring between 1 and 6 meters in height and occupying as many as thousands of acres each.

The biosphere reserve is crossed by the dried-up bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra River and comprises Patisar Lake and irrigated land. Officials said that indigenous trees like Indian rosewood and Acacia karroo will be planted over 1,212 acres of barren land in the wildlife reserve.

Many species of animals can be found throughout the park. These include several wild animals of the desert such as Asiatic wildcats, rabbits, bustards, and deer. Reptiles in the park include the monitor lizard, Russell's viper, Indian cobra, saw-scaled viper, wolf snake, John's sand boa, and spiny-tailed lizard. More than 160 species of birds are also present, including the houbara bustard, griffon vulture, crested honey buzzard, marsh harrier, hen harrier, laggar falcon, peregrine falcon, kestrel, Eurasian sparrow-hawk, Egyptian vulture, lark, shrike, wheatear, and barn owl. Lake Patisar, a large body of water in the centre of the park, is ideal for bird watching. In mid-winter, the lake is regularly home to between 10,000 and 30,000 ducks and common coot.

The Punjab government has plans to convert the Lal Sohanra National Park into a wildlife safari park of international standard. One of its most prominent attractions is currently the lion safari, which allows guests to see lions in their natural habitat at close range. In addition, the park's captive breeding suite holds a pair of Indian rhinoceros which were given by Nepal. Rhinos were once found as far west as the Peshawar Valley during the reign of Mughal Emperor Babur, but are now extinct in Pakistan.

Over 400 animals are currently being bred in the Lal Sohanra Park, including a large population of blackbucks, a breed of antelope most notable for its pronounced sexual dimorphism. The park is constantly supplied with new blackbucks in order to extend its efforts toward blackbuck conservation.

There are archaeological remains of an ancient civilization which once flourished along the Ghaggar-Hakra River.