KARACHI: The Customs dep­art­ment confiscated 350 tortoises on Friday in Mochko and arrested a man who claimed to have acquired the reptiles from Quetta.

The species was identified as Afghan tortoises.

“An FIR has been registered against Baaz Mohammed who was bringing the tortoises from Quetta to Karachi in a bus,” said Dr Ali Raza Turabi, deputy collector Cus­toms at the Anti-Smuggling Organi­sation (Preventive Collectorate).

The tortoises, all in good health, were being properly fed and would be handed over to the departments concerned, the Balochistan and Sindh wildlife departments for release in their habitat, once all legal formalities were met, he added.

Sharing details of Afghan tortoises’ distribution in the region, Shamim Fakhri, senior research officer at the Zoological Survey of Pakistan, said tortoises were found from the Caspian Sea southward through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and eastward through Kazakhstan to Xinjiang, China.

“Two tortoise species are found in Pakistan; the Indian star tortoises and the Afghan tortoises. The latter is native to Balochistan,” he said, adding that he spotted the species in Ziarat, Khuzdar, Noshki, Quetta and Mastung during his surveys.

According to him, indiscriminate trapping and poaching of tortoises have greatly reduced their number. “The Indian star tortoise has become rare in Sindh, though the Afghan tortoise is still found in many areas of Balochistan.”

The Afghan tortoise is listed as protected species under the Balochistan Wildlife Protection Act while Sindh’s rules enacted in 2014 ban poaching, catching, trapping and netting of all types of turtles and tortoises.

International trade of all reptile species is legally prohibited in Pakistan under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2017

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