Balkasar Bear Sanctuary, Protect Bears in Pakistan!

This is the story of Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.
An acquaintance working in the hunting tourism sector invited me to visit the Balkasar Bear Sanctuary. At first, I didn’t know the main idea behind this place until I went there and saw the reality.


The bears were safeguarded and brought here from the entertainment show businesses like, “Bear Fighting” and “Dancing Bear”.

Most of the bears were owned by landlords in the southern part of Pakistan (South Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan), and their teeth and claws were taken out and sold.

Some individuals even had no limbs. They were cut out by their avaricious owners as a punishment for not obeying.
Seeing a bear with no limbs in front of me, I could not believe how cruel humans are.


Himalayan black bear under the training.

An acquaintance brought me here, who is a hunting tour operator involved in the bear conservation project and is responsible for the operations of returning to the wild. For him, knowing real wild animals, abuse of wild bear was not acceptable.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, Pakistan’s hunting situation is somehow contributing to the conservation of wild animals. The officials decide every year quota for each animal and returning profits to the local area. In this way, illegal hunting has halted and simultaneously protecting wild animals. Though it works only for animals which are labeled as “Trophy Hunting” animals, not for all the animals.


Time for the evening meal.

Balkasar Bear Sanctuary has 54 bears. The vast majority of them are black bears.

According to the experts, the current population of wild bears in Pakistan is assessed to be between 600 and 650 Himalayan black bears, 200 to 250 Himalayan brown bears. Though there is no official survey.
This means that approximately 6-7% of Pakistani bears are saved and protected in Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.


As my curiosity escalated, I asked how these bears are sold in the city.

In many cases, shepherd and locals search for hibernating mother bear and cub, killing the mother bear and bringing cub for sale.

I could not believe all these stories but it is a hard reality.

These bears were dealt badly in show business. When they were rescued and brought to the sanctuary their condition was utterly horrendous. Even the staff had difficulty confronting the truth of what befell these bears.
Pakistani and foreign veterinarians who cooperate with this Bear Sanctuary have helped save many bear’s life.

Unfortunately, these bears can’t go back to the wild anymore. The teeth and claws were taken out by some remorseless and selfish humans.

The purpose of this facility is to provide these bears to spend their remaining lives in a natural condition with other bears.


Moreover, this facility is working hard daily to return the bears to the wild who  are able to survive in the wild.
In the early summer 2016, they released three Himalayan black bears, and that success encouraged them to adopt this practice regular.
In the early summer of 2017, they released two Himalayan brown bears (2 and a half years old) who were trained to return to the wild.

As of October 2019, when we visited this sanctuary, two of them have survived in the wild. A microchip was embedded and its movement was monitored.

Some Himalayan black bear cubs are expected to return to the wild in 2020. The cubs will be trained regarding how to catch a fish at the facility in Nathia Gali.
Lobbying to the government has also been made at the same time.


It is also surprising that Balkasar Bear Sanctuary is not operating with aid funds such as the government’s or donations, but is working with income from their vegetable garden.

Negotiating with owners of bears such as powerful landlords, saving the bear from them, and returning the cubs to the wild is not an easy task by any means.

Wild animals such as Ibex and other goats’ families are protected under the trophy hunting resume and no doubt the number is increased, but bears are not protected at all and are in danger condition.

I would like to express my sincere respect and gratitude to the people of Balkasar Bear Sanctuary who fight against the cruel humans for the sake of wildlife, bears of Pakistan.


Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Oct 2019, Balkasar, Punjab, Pakistan

Category : - Himalayan Brown Bear > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan > ◇ Conservation of Wildlife, Nature
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How to apply for Pakistan e-VISA

Pakistan’s VISA is now available online.

We had a report from our foreigner client who traveled on an e-VISA recently. Below is the step by step process of application and precautions required, as of Oct 2019.

Necessary items:
PC, passport, credit card, face photo data, hotel reservation certificate.
Fee: $ 8.18 (as of October 2019)

Application site :

Access the above site from your PC.
**Note : Website is not displayed with browsers other than Google Chrome or Firefox.


This screen will appear when you access it.
Click “Visit Visa” in the red frame.


Then click “Tourist Visa”.


Click “Apply Now”.


First, you need to create an account.


Fill in all the blanks and check the checkbox at the end. Click “SAVE AND CONTINUE”.
* *Note: Password must contain at least 8 characters, including upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.


If such a screen is displayed, it is success till this point.


An e-mail like above will be sent to the registered email address.
Continue clicking “Continue Registration”.


Type in the 4-digit pin code you received via e-mail. Fill in the remaining blanks and activate your account. Click “VERIFY”.


Once your account is activated, login again with the email address and password you registered earlier.


Check and click “Accept and Continue”.


Select “Your Country” from the tab. Click “START E-VISA APPLICATION” … Finally from this step onwards you start applying for e-VISA.
Afterwards, fill the red stars blank space along the flow.

After entering all necessary items, you need to upload 3 documents.
1 Passport copy
2 Face photo
3 Hotel reservation certificate

(If you live in a third country, visa or work certificate of that country)

You can upload files up to 350KB, so adjust the size and upload one by one.


The application will finish once the payment through credit card is completed.


About 10 days after applying, I received a Visa approval e-mail.
Copy and Print e-Visa from the email link and take it with you.
**Note : You will be asked to submit at immigration and hotel / flight check-in, checkport etc.. . Keep it always with your passport.


When you arrive at the airport, first you have to go to the e-Visa counter.
It is necessary to have a sign and stamp like the image above.
After that, you will line up in the immigration counter for foreigners.
Pakistan has made easy access for individual travelers to obtain visa.
Please use it when you travel to Pakistan.

This information is what our foreign client has experienced in November 2019.
The content/condition of obtaining e-visa may change. Be sure to check the website by yourself and apply with enough time before traveling to Pakistan.


Text :Mariko SAWADA


* The article is based on information as of November 28, 2019. It does not guarantee the acquisition of a visa. In the future, e-VISA application sites and acquisition conditions may change. Please be sure to check the latest information. In addition, please make an application with enough time before departure.

* I have heard that the above site does not open in India. Please be careful  if you live in India or traveling in India.

Crossing India-Pakistan border and Flag ceremony at Wagha .

Category : ◇ Pakistan Travel Tip
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Sindh Ibex – Hingol National Park

Sindh Ibex is a mountain goat family that lives in the rugged dry mountainous areas of southern Pakistan. As the name suggests, Kirthar National Park in Sindh is famous for its natural habitat. However, Sindh Ibex also lives in Hingol National Park, Balochistan.

Surprisingly it was easy to meet Sindh Ibex coming to the water in the dry Hingol National Park. It was at the sacred Hinglaj Mata Hindu Temple (also called Nani Mandir) inside the national park. When I approached the shrine, Sindh Ibex was eating grass in quite a close distance.


A male Sindh Ibex. There are two types of Ibex in Pakistan. Himalayan Ibex in the Northern Mountains and Sindh Ibex in the mountains of Sindh and Balochistan. The male horn of Sindh Ibex astoundingly grows 1m long.


Gorgeous female Sindh Ibex and its baby.


Going forward, suddenly I saw a group of Ibex emerging from just above the cliff. Generally, Sindh Ibex seems to move in relatively large groups.

There were a lot of trophy-sized males (ones with large horns permitted to trophy hunting). In Pakistan, Ibex trophy hunting is taking place. However, it is only prohibited inside the national parks and hunting is operated under the rules and regulations by the community forest. For 2019, 50 Himalayan Ibex and 24 Sindh Ibex in Pakistan are allocated for trophy hunting slots.

Hunting?? In this era?? No doubt, I am against hunting, but Pakistan’s hunting situation is likewise identified with conservation and the endurance of the local villagers. Trophy hunting targets only large horned individuals who have no more ability to reproduce. Subsequently, these profits are given to villagers, so villagers crackdown on illegal hunting. Therefore, it is said that the Ibex population has increased in both the northern and southern regions since this system was established.


Energetic young males began battling with their horns.


It’s like a fighting practice. A male Ibex show dominance by fighting with a horn over females when they reach maturity.


Photo & Text  : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Feb 2019, Hinglaj Mata/Nani Mandir, Hingol National Park,  Balochistan

Category : ◆ Balochistan > - Hingol National Park > - Ibex > - Wildlife of Balochistan
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Cave City of Bela, Gondrani

A Buddhist ruin, located in Balochistan … though its existence is still a mystery …
This bygone site is known as, “The Cave City of Bela” or “Cave city of Gondrani”. It is located on the outskirts of the secluded town of Bela, where you have to go by a 4WD vehicle or walk across the river.


Till this date, we still don’t know the details and the exact history of what these ruins were or for what purpose they were built and from which era.
However, it is said that it is one of the remains of a Buddhist monastery from around the 8th century when it was a territory of a Buddhist kingdom.


The front side is a terrace and there is a room behind it.


A closer view. I had a strong sense of déjà vu when I first came here. It reminded me of a cave of Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan. The difference from the Bamiyan was that in Bamiyan the caves were with Buddha and some wall paintings and ceiling decorations, but here there were no decorations at all.


As you walk along the path created by the flow of water, the caverns would eventually become smaller and distorted. Some of the caves have hardly remained in shape due to weathering over many years.


I touched about the Buddhist cave in Afghanistan. This is a panoramic view of the majestic Bamiyan Caves. There are over 750 caves spread over 1300m long cliff. These caves started to build from the 5th century and are considered to have reached their peak in the 6th and 7th centuries and ended in the 8th and 10th centuries. Wall painting and decoration remains on the terrace of East Buddha, on the right side of the photo.


More like the Gondrani Caves than the Bamiyan Cave are the Foladi Caves in the Bamiyan valley.


Some people lived in the cave to take refuge during the recent war. There was also a cave with a black ceiling due to fire.


Unlike the Gondrani Caves, the Foladi Caves have beautiful ceiling decorations such as “Laternendecke”.
Above all, we hope that Gondrani (Bela) Cave city’s historical survey will be conducted soon. So that this uncharted place gets historically recognized throughout the world.


Photo & Text : Mariko Sawada
Visit: Nov 2018, Feb 2019 Cave city of Bela/Gondrani, Baluchistan :
Photographs of Bamiyan & Foladi Cave were taken from 2003-2012

Category : ◆ Balochistan > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Shimshal village in Autumn

This is the wonderful scenery of Shimshal village in late October, enveloped in the golden, yellow, red shades of Autumn. Livestock have returned from Pamir and the village is ready for a tough winter ahead.


The yaks who returned from Pamir were in the field. Large males and some females remain in the Pamir over winter. It is a tradition to survive the cold and tough winter with limited food.


A sunny day, good for washing! Shimshal village on a warm sunny day.


Karun Koh seen from the Shimshal valley. The altitude of Karun Koh peak is 6,977m, 7,164m, or 7,350m depending on the documents.


Just outside the Shimshal village, there are Molonguti Glacier and Disthagil Sar 7,885m.  From here we drive off the valley for 3 hours to reach the mighty Karakoram Highway near Passu.

Visit beautiful village of Shimshal – One step off from Karakoram Highway !


Photo & Text: Mariko Sawada

Visit: Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan



Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Shimshal
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Shimshal in Autumn – At the suspension bridge on the Shimshal River/Autumn Kuch 4

Finally, the goats, sheep and villagers who have had spent the summer in Pamir safely arrived at Shimshal village. Most villagers go to Pamir temporarily to carry livestock, but some women take care of livestock and make dairy products during the summer.

Unfortunately, these traditions are slowly disappearing.


People waiting eagerly for livestock on the other side of the river.


Came back from Pamir: sheep, goats and villagers.


It’s soon towards the suspension bridge.


People waiting for the arrival of family and livestock.
I was engrossed in taking pictures of this beautiful scene.


A villager crossing the suspension bridge carrying a lamb that is still small and unable to walk.


Villagers, sheep and goats walk to the center of the village as they cross the bridge.


Collected in the village, goats and sheep just came back from Pamir.


The villagers confirm the goats and sheep that they have kept and return each of them to the respective home-owner.

On this day, what I witnessed …. the arrival of KUCH in Shimshal village …. It was such a beautiful tradition that villagers together cooperated and built, something unknown to the world outside.

One should experience the Kuch tradition for once in their lifetime!


Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Shimshal
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The Long-legged Buzzard (Balochistan)

This is a long legged buzzard that was seen on the coast of Kund Malir, in Balochistan. These birds are found throughout the African and Eurasian continents. They breed in Central Asia and then travel to the open areas in southern Pakistan during the winter months.


And there certainly are plenty of ‘open areas’ all over Balochistan. The buzzards often prey on rodents, lizards, small birds etc.


Balochistan is famous as a place where Arab millionaires go to illegally hunt wildlife. These rare birds are unfortunately being targeted for the sake of Eagle Hunting hobbyists. Recently, thankfully, these kinds of threats to the birds are being spotlighted on social media and other media outlets, so now people have more awareness about the problem.


Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Nov 2019, Kund Malir, Balochistan


Category : ◆ Balochistan > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Shimshal in Autumn – Yaks return to the village /Autumn Kuch -3

Finally, it is the day to return to Shimshal village with the yaks.
From Wuch Furzeen to Past Furzeen, there are steep climbs and sliding areas.


Yaks carefully descends the vertiginous slope.


I saw goats and sheep moving on a steep slope from the bottom. The right side curve was really scary and precipitous.


Goats and sheep rush to the village. Their pace is slower than that of yaks, so they will arrive to the village the day after the yak’s arrival.


Yaks and villagers strenuously climb the mountain slope.


View of the incredible Yazghil Glacier on the way to the village.


“The white horn of Shimshal”, Adver Sar (6,400m).


And it’s down Ghare Sar. When you get off here, it is Shimshal village.


Crossing the Shimshal River. The villagers protect the small yaks.


To the Shimshal village where the family awaits anxiously.


At last! The villagers and yaks have arrived at Shimshal village. It was really a good work. Cheers!


Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Oct 2014, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Shimshal
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