WWF-Pakistan release 171 confiscated black-spotted turtles
The remaining 333 turtles will be released at Taunsa Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary (TBWS) early next week. Uzma Khan, Director Biodiversity, WWF-Pakistan and Khalid Ayaz Khan, Director General, Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department, released confiscated turtles in the Balloki area.
According to Khalid Ayaz Khan, ‘On this day, we are giving a strong message to the public to promote turtle conservation which is not just beneficial for the ecosystem but for humans as well. Turtles act as scavengers by feeding on dead organic matter and diseased fish, thus maintain healthy supply of fishes, and therefore acquire great ecological importance. Media should highlight conservation issues and report wildlife crime so that awareness can be promoted.
The two smugglers, residents of Karachi, were fined Rs. 300,000. According to Uzma Khan, ‘In the international market a small pond turtle is sold for about 250 USD, which means that this consignment can fetch 126,000 USD. The fine imposed is a fraction of the market price. The laws need to be more stringent to deter people from wildlife crimes. This is serious and represents that the offenders are very organized and resourceful.’
According to Uzma Noureen, Coordinator Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project, WWF-Pakistan and member, IUCN Tortoises and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, ‘The Government of Sindh has tightened wildlife rules keeping in view the increased turtle trafficking and its value in the international markets. Previously, the fine for a whole consignment used to be Rs. 50,000 but now smuggler may be fined Rs. 12,000 for each live turtle, and Rs. 20,000 for each dead species. The Punjab wildlife laws should be amended to end turtle trafficking in the province.’
Trafficking of black spotted turtles for pets has considerably increased over the last few years which is a cause of concern for environmentalists, it is also served as a delicacy in East Asian countries. It is one of eight species of freshwater turtles occurring in Pakistan and is restricted to ponds and rivers. The turtle is largely carnivorous, however, also eats vegetation. No population data is available but threats to this species are serious.
Such confiscations indicate the commercial trade of the species which also highlights that these turtles are highly prized. They are wild caught animals as there are no registered black spotted turtle breeder in range countries of Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Since 2013, 1,279 black spotted turtles have been confiscated from Pakistan. This consignment, of 504 black spotted turtles, is the largest confiscation of the species to date.
The black spotted pond turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) is an Appendix 1 species in the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and its trade is illegal across international borders without export and import permits. Turtles are protected in Pakistan. The United Nations gives illegal wildlife trade the status of organized crime and urges countries to take stricter actions to combat it.
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