Published On: Mon, Nov 9th, 2015

42 vulnerable freshwater turtles rescued in Karachi

Staff Report

A Large number of vulnerable freshwater turtles rescued in Karachi, claimed a statement issued by WWF-Pakistan on Monday, which were later handed over to the Sindh Wildlife Department for release into their natural habitat.

A total of 42 black spotted turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii), classified as vulnerable according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, have been recovered so far, while around 15 were reported to be dead. It is believed wildlife traffickers discarded the freshwater turtles in jute bags at Sea View on 7 October 2015. Zoe Viccaji singer and former WWF-Pakistan Earth Hour ambassador and Rachel Viccaji, Coke Studio singer rescued nine turtles from the beach. While travelling in the area, the pair saw a few turtles by the road side and rescued them. A number of turtles were struggling for life, while a few were already dead. They further informed that 13 turtles were rescued by CBM life guards, which they collected and handed over to WWF-Pakistan. While, 18 black spotted turtles were rescued by Aftab Ahmed, a Karachi resident, who also handed over to the species to WWF-Pakistan.
The international trade of freshwater turtles is considered a lucrative business, and is beginning to cause pressure on freshwater turtle populations across the country, putting the long-term survival of several species at risk. WWF-Pakistan has taken a number of necessary conservation actions to curb this illegal wildlife trade.
There are eight species of freshwater turtles found in Pakistan, of which five are globally threatened. However, wildlife traffickers often take advantage of weak enforcement in this regard. It is important to note that since organizations and departments have begun to work collaboratively, conservation efforts are slowly bearing fruit. The provincial and federal government has taken several effective steps in revising their legislation and developing and approving policies in this regard while implementation remains a challenge. A lot of momentum has been generated since the confiscation of 218 black spotted turtles in 2014, which was helpful in raising awareness and also enabled an opportunity to build capacity of custom officials. Since then loopholes in legislation have been dealt with, and ports have been closed down for trafficking wildlife species out of the country. WWF-Pakistan believes that the reason behind abandoning these turtles is due to the diligent and strict enforcement measures taken by local authorities, particularly the Sindh Wildlife Department.
According to Saeed ul Islam, Coordinator WWF-Pakistan, WWF-Pakistan has taken key steps to ensure not only closing down ports, but also curb illegal wildlife trade completely from the country. For this purpose, WWF-Pakistan has recently launched a USAID Small Grants and Ambassador’s Fund programme funded project titled Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade by Establishing National Monitoring Network. This will help raise awareness on the issue demonstrating best practices and building the capacity of officials.

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