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Protected freshwater turtles confiscated

Updated September 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) confiscated two protected freshwater turtle species from a pet and aquarium shop on Wednesday.

On a complaint from a citizen that a vendor in Sector F-10 was selling each of the turtles for Rs1,000, a team from the IWMB raided the shop and confiscated the species. The species included three brown roofed turtles (Pangshura smithii) and one crowned river turtle (Hardella thurjii). These species are protected under the wildlife protection laws of Pakistan and their commercial trade is prohibited.

IWMB Chairman Dr Anisur Rahman said freshwater turtles were under a serious threat due to a number of factors, particularly poaching and trafficking. He said though all species of freshwater and marine turtles were legally protected, their illegal trade continued.

The illicit wildlife trafficking is not only an environmental issue but also a crime, Dr Rehman added.

Rab Nawaz, the senior director programmes for WWF-Pakistan, said the seizure of the turtles was a reminder that illegal trafficking of reptiles remained a persistent threat to their survival.

“It can only be halted through the effective enforcement of the laws, alleviation of the main drivers of the trade such as poverty and raising awareness. WWF-Pakistan works in close collaboration with the IWMB, the Ministry of Climate Change, provincial wildlife departments, Pakistan Customs and other law enforcement and border security agencies to control the illegal trade of live freshwater turtles and their parts,” he said.

In this context, a number of consignments have been confiscated by these agencies, most of which were released in the presence of WWF-Pakistan. He said WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change was also in the process of establishing a national wildlife crime monitoring network which would help strengthen coordinated efforts to halt illegal wildlife trade.

The brown roofed turtles were released in Rawal Lake while the crowned river turtle was being shifted to Karachi where the Sindh Wildlife Department and WWF-Pakistan would release it in its natural habitat – the Indus River.

Manager Wildlife Humera Ayesha said freshwater turtles were cleansers of freshwater bodies that eat away dead animals same as vultures cleaned the environment on land by disposing of dead animals.

According to the expert, all eight species of freshwater turtles found in Pakistan are critically endangered.

“The government of Pakistan has placed a strict ban on the export of turtles to save the species. The demands for dried turtle meat and shell in South East Asian countries have put freshwater turtles in Pakistan under tremendous pressure,” said Ms Ayesha.

The vendor was, however, issued a warning of legal action in case he violated the law again. Dr Rehman said spreading awareness was of utmost importance before taking harsh actions against the violators.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017