62 tortoises, freshwater turtles rescued

62 tortoises, freshwater turtles rescued

KARACHI: A joint team of World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan (WWF-P) and Sindh Wildlife Department rescued 62 vulnerable tortoises and freshwater turtles, which were later released into Hub Dam near Khar Centre in the Kirthar National Park.

The reptiles were spotted in the morning by a team of Express Newswhile crossing the EBM Causeway in Korangi Industrial Area. They 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, out of fear of strict vigilance from the Sindh Wildlife Department, abandoned them at night in this area. A number of burlap bags were also found, indicating that the animals were transported to the area. According to experts, these species are not found in Karachi and were brought from other parts of the country.

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Both species of the rescued reptiles, Afghan or Central Asian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) and black pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) are categorised as vulnerable, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list. They are also protected as they are included in the Second Schedule of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1972. According to WWF-P conservation manager Altaf Sheikh, 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.

WWF-P coordinator Naveed Ali Soomro 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 Rs200,000 to Rs500,000, depending on the weight and size of the reptile.