Published On: Sat, Sep 20th, 2014

229 Black Pond turtles seized at Karachi airport

Turtle

Amar Guriro/Photos Courtesy: Sindh Wildlife Department

KARACHI, SINDH: Officials at the Jinnah International Airport, Karachi confiscated a heavy consignment of about 229 of Black Pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) packed in two briefcases from a Bangkok bound transit flight on Saturday.

Officials of Pakistan Customs also arrested the passenger Sajjid Cheema, resident of Lahore from whom the consignment was seized.

“Though, the consignment was confiscated by Pakistan Customs authorities, but we had already information about this consignment and we issued information many days ago to customs authorities, as we are not allowed to intervene inside the airport premises, but finally the cases will be handed over to us,” said Chief Conservator Sindh Wildlife Department Javed Ahmed Mahar.

He claimed to get information from his staff two weeks ago that some culprits have caught a heavy consignment in northern Sindh’s Sukkur district, so he issued a high alert in the department and also informed to authorities of Pakistan Customs about such consignment.

It is worth mentioning that just last month (in August 2014) Mahar headed a team which brought back around 220 hard-shell turtles, which were seized by the Customs authorities at Kashgar, at the Pakistan and China border.

Turtle-

The black pond turtle is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and also listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It has a restricted range of distribution in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Hwoever, in Pakistan, most of the types of this endangered turtle, which is mostly found in River Indus and canals and other water bodies of River Indus System, almost extincted due to the legally poaching.
Though, Pakistan customs have not handed over the turtles or the culprit to the Sindh Wildlife Department, which is official custodian of all types of the wildlife species in the province. “We will launch First Offense Report (FOR) as soon as we get the consignment and the culprit and will produce them into the court and also we will suggest a fine of PKR 1 million for the culprit,” said Mahar.

Though, the Black Pond turtles are criticially endangered wildlife species in Sindh province, but it was not protected officially under Sindh Wildlife Act 1972, until September 19, 2014, when through a notification the department declared it protected wildlife species.

Recently, in a report, globally recognized wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFIC expressed grave concern over the ilegal trade and smuggling of Black Pond turtle in Asia.

According to the official record of the Sindh Wildlife Department there are two types of these endangered black pond turtle, the hard shell and the soft shell turtles. The hard shell turtles are further divided into subcatorgaries including Black spotted turle, Brown roofed turtle, Indian Roofed Turtle and Crowned River Turtle and the soft shell turtles are divided into subcategories life Indian Soft shell turtle, Indian narrowed headed soft shell turtle, Indian flat shape turtle and the Indian peacock soft shell turtles.

“All four types of the hard shell turtles excluding black pond turtle and the soft shell turtles excluding Indian flat shape turtle are almost extincted in Sindh province for various reasons and poaching is one of the major reason,” said Mahar. Evolating the environmental value of these turtles, Mahar said that these turtles are supposed as water scavenger and they consume all harmful waste materials from the water and keep the water bodies clean.

Talking to The Nature News over telephone, minister for wildlife department Gyan Chand Essrani said he is asked his department to conduct a detailed inquiry within next two days. “The initial reports state that these were not collected from Sindh province, but were legally collected from Punjab province, but we will look into the matter and will issue detailed report for press,” said Essrani.

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