Published On: Thu, Oct 23rd, 2014

WWF-Pakistan appreciates Sindh High Court’s decision to issue stay order against acquittal of turtle smuggler

Press Release

The Sindh High Court has issued a stay order on the acquittal of Sajid Cheema who attempted to illegally smuggle 218 black spotted turtles to Bangkok, Thailand last month, discloses a press statement issued by WWF-Pakistan’s Communications Officer Asif Ali Sandeelo on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

The statement further added that the consignment was confiscated at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi by Customs and Wildlife authorities on 20 September 2014. Subsequently, the case was registered before the Judicial Magistrate Court Malir against the culprit who was released on bail.

The Sindh High Court has issued notices to the Federal Ministry of Interior, Climate Change Division, Federal Board of Revenue, Pakistan Customs Drug Enforcement Cell and the Sindh Government including the Sindh Wildlife Department, Home Department and the accused in the turtle smuggling case to submit their responses regarding prevention of illegal export of wildlife species. These notices were issued in response to the Constitutional Petition entitled “Preservation of Turtles and Tortoise” under article 199 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 which has been filed by WWF-Pakistan and others including the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Citizens for Better Environment (Shehri – CBE).

The petition states that smuggling of turtles and tortoises is the violation of customs laws and their constitutional obligations under article 4 and 9 of Constitution 1973 and should be dealt under the Customs Act of 1969 and other relevant laws. The petition also requests that an investigation regarding illegal trafficking of wildlife species should be conducted and responsibility, criminal and civil liability of persons including government officials, government departments and private individuals should be fixed and civil and criminal proceedings must be initiated.
According to Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan, “Federal and provincial governments are taking steps to combat turtle trade but this issue requires greater efforts. Due to steps taken by WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department, freshwater turtles are now a protected species in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh. We appreciate the Sindh High Court’s judgement in supporting conservation and addressing the serious issue of wildlife trade in Pakistan.”
Altaf Hussain Sheikh, Manager Conservation Sindh, WWF-Pakistan said that since the turtle and tortoise species are on the verge of extinction, their protection is fundamental for environmental conservation. He further said that freshwater turtles are found in the entire Indus River system, which proves to be beneficial for the ecosystem, as they feed upon dead organic material, diseased fish and clean water resources.
There are eight different species of freshwater turtles found in Pakistan; five of which are globally threatened species according to the IUCN Red List. All eight freshwater turtle species are listed in CITES Appendices I & II and their import and export without a legal permit is prohibited. Countless species including turtles are illegally poached and exported to other countries especially China and East Asian countries. Threats to freshwater turtles include habitat degradation, scarcity of water, pollution and the biggest threat to their survival is from illegal trade to different countries on commercial scale.

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