KARACHI: Pakistan has requested CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)-Management Authority of Thailand to provide details on seizures of turtles and tortoises that have been made over the past few years which according to press reports were smuggled out of Pakistan, sources told Dawn on Sunday.
The sources said the CITES-Management Authority of Pakistan sent the requisition through an email.
They also said that the need to contact the Thai authorities was felt following the recent publication of a report by TRAFFIC International (the wildlife trade monitoring network developed by International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Wide Fund for Nature) regarding seizures of tortoises and freshwater turtles in Thailand (2008-2013) that highlights three cases in which Pakistanis were involved.
In the first and the second seizure, Pakistani nationals carrying Indian star tortoises were travelling from Bangladesh to Thailand (788 Indian star tortoises on July 2008 and 1,140 Indian star tortoises on September 2010) while in the third case a Pakistani national carrying 470 black spotted turtles was travelling from Lahore to Bangkok. He was caught by Thai Royal Customs on Nov 8, 2013.
According to the report titled Escalating Black Spotted Turtle Trade in Asia: a study of seizures, illegal international trade of black spotted turtles has witnessed an increase in the past two years, with more than 1,960 animals seized in 22 incidents between January 2008 and March 2014. Of this, at least 1,865 were seized between January 2013 and 2014.
The main trade chain for these turtles, the report says, appears to start in South Asia, where animals are collected and subsequently sent for ‘wholesale’ in Thailand.
The black spotted turtle, according to the study, is protected by national laws in each of its four range states: Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It is found in eastern Pakistan and distributed throughout northern and north-east India. The species is also scattered throughout Nepal and Bangladesh. Currently, there is no record of CITES-registered legal commercial breeding centre of this species in range states.
Pakistan is notable for being the habitat of eight different species of freshwater turtles, five of which are globally threatened according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The black spotted turtle is listed in Appendix 1 of CITES and, therefore, cannot be bought or sold internationally.
Pakistan and Thailand, sources said, were both signatories to CITES under which endangered animals needed to be repatriated to their country of origin. However, there was no communication exchanged between the Thai authorities and Pakistan about any turtle seizure.
Under article VIII of the convention when a live specimen is confiscated, “(a) the specimen shall be entrusted to a Management Authority of the State of confiscation (b) the Management Authority shall, after consultation with the State of export, return the specimen to that State at the expense of that State, and (c) the Management Authority may obtain the advice of a Scientific Authority, or may, whenever it considers it desirable, consult the Secretariat in order to facilitate the decision.”
“It is the responsibility of CITES member states to collaborate and share information with each other to prevent wildlife trafficking. The recent repatriation of about 200 black spotted turtles from China to Pakistan from where these animals had been smuggled out shows how nations can break crime networks and discourage wildlife traffickers,” said Uzma Noureen of WWF-Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2014