42 turtles rescued from Sea View
KARACHI: The Sea View beach strip was swarmed by at least 42 black-spotted turtles on Saturday after alleged poachers abandoned them at the shore, fearing arrest. The turtles were spotted by residents and beach-goers, who alerted the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan. The latter rescued most of the barely-alive turtles and handed them over to the Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) on Monday.
The WWF-P found at least 42 black-spotted turtles, of the Geoclemys hamiltonii variety, which has been classified as vulnerable by the Indian Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list. Around 15 were already dead at the time they were found.
Wildlife officials believe that traffickers discarded the freshwater turtles to avoid possible arrest. They left the endangered turtles in jute bags at Sea View on Saturday.
According to WWF-Pakistan, Zoe Viccaji, a singer and former WWF-Pakistan Earth Hour ambassador and Rachel Viccaji, currently affiliated with Coke Studio, rescued nine turtles from the beach. They were driving along Sea View road when they spotted a few turtles by the roadside. A number of specimen were struggling for life while some were already dead. At least 13 turtles were rescued by lifeguards which they collected and handed over to WWF-Pakistan. Another resident of the area, Aftab Ahmed, rescued 18 turtles and also handed them over to the WWF-P.
The international trade of freshwater turtles is considered a lucrative business, and is beginning to cause pressure on the population of the species across the country, putting the long-term survival of several species at risk. There are eight species of freshwater turtles in Pakistan. Of these, five are threatened globally.
Wildlife traffickers often take advantage of weak enforcement. In the last couple of years, several attempts to smuggle turtles out of Pakistan through the sea and air routes have been foiled, discouraging persons involved in the illegal trade.
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 created an opportunity to build capacity of Customs officials. Since then, loopholes in legislation have been dealt with and ports have been closed down for trafficking wildlife species out of the country.
The provincial conservator of SWD, Saeed Akhtar Baloch, recalled that this was the second incident in the last two months that several turtles had been found on the roadside by citizens. The first such incident took place when unknown persons had discarded freshwater turtles on Korangi Road. “The investigation is underway,” said Baloch. The official added that after rehabilitation, all the turtles will be released into their natural habitat.
According to WWF-Pakistan coordinator Saeedul Islam, the organisation has taken key steps to ensure that not only are the ports closed down for such illegal trading but illegal wildlife trading is completely eradicated from the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2015.