KARACHI: The 13 surviving freshwater turtles, out of total of 62 which were recently handed over to the wildlife department following their confiscation by the police, were finally released into the Haleji lake on Saturday.
The consignment comprised adult black pond turtles, most of them were females. All the 13 surviving turtles are also female.
“All the turtles were safely transported from the department’s conservation unit in Hawkesbay to the Haleji lake in the morning and released there,” said wildlife inspector Naeem Mohammad Khan.
He added that no suspect had been arrested in the case so far.
The consignment of 62 black pond turtles, an endangered and protected species, was confiscated by the Karachi police reportedly on Tuesday night in the Shanti Nagar area. The police, however, had claimed that turtles were seized during a raid in the Dalmia area on Thursday morning.
As a result of a delay in rescuing the turtles, all of whom were tightly packed in cartons, 49 of them died.
An airway bill (number 21478589722) for Kuala Lumpur was also found attached to the consignment that indicated that the cartons had been processed to be taken abroad, according to wildlife department officials.
Last year, there were three incidents in which a large number of freshwater turtles (more than 100) abandoned in the DHA, Seaview and Korangi were recovered. Some turtles were found dead, though.
Live turtles and their parts have also been confiscated in large numbers over the past two years at the seaport and Karachi airport.
According to sources, international trade of freshwater turtles is a lucrative business, causing severe pressure on the population of these species across the country.
Eight different species of freshwater turtles are found in Pakistan — 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 — and five of them are globally threatened species.
All these species are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 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.
The species (Geoclemys hamiltonii), also known as spotted pond turtles or black pond turtles, is listed in Appendix 1 of the CITES and, therefore, cannot be bought or sold internationally.
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2016