a blessing, so better to be blessed. The authorities concerned are unknown to
gruesome reality that large scale butchering of indigenous turtles and its
illegal trade is on the rise in the waters of River Sindh and its
distributaries during the last two decades, posing extinction threat to the
species besides posing huge environmental degradation.
revealed by Uzma Noreen, Coordinator WWF-P and wild life defender during a media
men trip to Sukkur, that was organised by WWF to highlight illegal turtle trade
and killing. In Pakistan, there are eight different species of freshwater
turtles are found in Pakistan; five of them are globally threatened species,
namely Indian soft-shell turtle, Indian peacock soft-shell turtle, Indian
narrow-headed soft-shell turtle, Indian flap-shell turtle, black spotted (pond)
turtle, Indian roofed turtle, brown roofed turtle and crowned river turtle, she
She said and
added that all eight freshwater turtle species are listed in the CITES
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora)
Appendices I & II that means their import and export without a legal permit
is prohibited. These turtles are found in the entire Indus River system. These
turtles are found in the entire Indus river system.
During the briefing, she informed that the turtles paly a pivotal role for filling their tropic role in riverine ecosystems. Though no data available with the WWF and
other institutions however the current population status of the species in
Pakistan is unknown, though some past studies and surveys exist. Known as
scavengers, the turtles feed on dead organic matter in the water and play a
very important ecological role in cleaning water, she maintained.
WWF coordinator further said that if the turtles genocide and smuggling is continue
with this sprit no matter Pakistan have to face big loss in the form of fish
export business becouse turtles farming is not an easy job as it takes long
period of time for maturity around 5 to 20 years. And, if allow such farming it
would make it hard to verify which turtles are from farm and it will encourage
illegal trade. The
turtles are mostly smuggled include Vietnam, Korea, Hong Kong and China from
1990. In these countries people enjoy turtle soup, jelly, meat and also used
for medicines. She further told that certain communities in Dera Ismail Khan and
lower Sindh also eat turtles secretly and sell their eggs.
As per data
available with Department of Fisheries, the country’s total fish production
stands at 400,000 metric tons per annum out of which 282,000 metric tons is
produced by Sindh and remaining by other provinces. Ironically, fish production
in the country has remained stagnant which needs attention to propel it and
earn foreign exchange.
At the time
of media briefing by WWF, the officials of the Sindh Wildlife department Sukkur
told the media men that 200 black
spotted turtle ((Geoclemys hamiltonii)) that were smuggled to China in June were
brought back last month with the help of WWF-P and it is pertinent to be
mention here that it was the first incident of Pakistan’s history when any
smuggled consignment returned back. The street value of this consignment was
estimated at Rs 30 million.These turtles were kept in a small green nursery’s
pond at Dolphin Centre WWF ofiice Sukkur. These rescued hard-shell turtles will
be released into their natural habitat as soon as the flood situation comes
turtles are on ICUN’s red list but still are non protected specie in Sindh.
However, in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa both the provinces declared it protced
species in 2007.
Ms Noreen, who
has done research on turtles trade informed the media to a question that the black spotted turtles that were smuggled to China internationally cost $1600 per
animal and locally Rs 50-400 alive irrespective of animal’s size. The cost of
eggs about 80 to 250 per kg or 5-10/egg.
that the illegal turtle trade was going on in all the three provinces. However,
“ Turtle smuggling and trade is a major threat to turtle survival in Pakistan
that has brought a significant decline in their number over the years”, she emphases
reported that people catch turtles from canals and then keep them at their own
water ponds for growth. The turtles are caught from Sukkur, Phuleli and other
canals of Thatta, Hyderabad and Badin.
Department Sindh is not paying any heed for the protection of turtle generation
in the lower Sindh. It is reported that these turtles are used for making
medicines while people also eat their meat.
WWF also arranged
field visit for media to talk about illegal trade in Sher Dil Meher village in
Ghotki near Indus having some 190 to 100 thatch houses.
Community Based Organization, (CBO) Muhammad Ali Mirani, , told the media that
the WWF had been helping them an end to the illegal trade.
“If we see
an incident catching turtles we at once report to the near by police station
and local elders”, he claimed. “For six to seven years there has been no
hunting of turtles in this area “, Mirani revealed.
Ahemd an other CBO official told that earlier people used to kill turtles
massively. They would use nets or poisonous rats to kill or catch them. Those
turtles were later sold in the market against Rs400-Rs500 per kilogram.
Meher of Gohtani Environmental Organisation said that Bhel and some other non
muslim communites are involved in illegal hunting. They are mostly poor people
and working on daily wages in suger mills fishing business. “For two to three
years ago they used to take sacks full of turtles from this area. However, he
said due to the WWF interventions and different awareness campaigns this
practice had come to an end now”, Pehlwan explained.
Communication Officer, Syed Abubakr told the visiting journalists that WWF was
striving for turtle’s importance in aquatic ecosystem among the hunting
communities, general public and religious leaders to controlling the trade. “Global
Poverty Elevation Fund, WWF UK was also playing a pivotal role in livelihood
improvement of Indus fishermen community”, he said.
(The article is also published in Daily The Pak Banker)