Published On: Tue, Oct 13th, 2015

Abandoned tortoises, freshwater turtles rescued in Karachi



A joint team of WWF-Pakistan and Sindh Wildlife Department rescued 62 vulnerable tortoises and freshwater turtles which were later released at Hub Dam near Khar Centre in the Kirthar National Park, states a press release issued by WWF-Pakistan office on Tuesday.

The reptiles were discovered in the morning when a reporter and passerby, crossing the EBM Causeway in Korangi Industrial area, Karachi noticed a large number of tortoises and freshwater turtles struggling for life by the roadside. Twenty-five reptiles were found dead, possibly crushed under traffic.

The rescued turtles and tortoises were possibly discarded by illegal wildlife traders, who in fear of strict vigilance from the Sindh Wildlife Department, abandoned them under the cover of darkness in this area. A number of burlap bags were also discovered, indicating that the animals were transported to the area. According to WWF-Pakistan’s experts, these species are not found in Karachi and were brought from other parts of the country.

Both species of the rescued reptiles i.e. Afghan or Central Asian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) and black pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) are categorised as vulnerable according to the IUCN Red list and are also protected as they are included in the Second Schedule of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972.

According to Altaf Sheikh, Manager Conservation, WWF-Pakistan, the population of these two reptiles is rapidly declining as their illegal trade has escalated due to higher market demand over the past few years. He also informed that these turtles and tortoises are smuggled to China, Hong Kong and other central Asian countries. He also said that because of strict vigilance by the Pakistan Customs and Sindh Wildlife Department, a number of consignments have been confiscated and repatriated by China and Hong Kong.

Naveed Ali Soomro, Coordinator, WWF-Pakistan said that smuggling of turtles and tortoises has recently received a lot of hype as it has huge economic benefits to the poachers.

In the international market, each turtle is believed to be worth PKR 200,000 to 500,000 depending on the weight and size of a turtle. ‘It is high time to reinforce the decision taken by the Sindh High Court on the protection of these endangered species’, he added.

Naveed Ali Somoro, Asif Ali Sandeelo, Senior Communication Officer and Nazar Hussain, Assistant Conservator Turtles, Sindh Wildlife Department carried out the rescue operation and shifted these tortoises and turtles to Sindh Wildlife Department from where they were sent for release. It is feared that a few tortoises and turtles were taken by children and residents of the area to their houses. WWF-Pakistan has requested these residents to return these reptiles as they may die if proper care is not provided.

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