KARACHI: Sindh Wildlife Department officials caught an illegal wildlife trader and seized 151 turtles/tortoises of highly rare and protected wildlife species on Thursday.
A case was registered against the illegal wildlife trader and the reptiles were confiscated and were expected to be released in the wild in a day or two.
Responding to Dawn’s queries, wildlife inspector Naeem Khan said that he with the SWD’s raiding party, headed by Azeem Burfat, on a tip-off raided the shop, Marine Fish, in Al-Azam Square, Liaquatabad No. 10, on Thursday morning and seized 129 freshwater turtles, nine marine green turtles and 13 tortoises, three of them dead.
He said that a case had been registered under a first offence report (494/47) against the alleged illegal wildlife trader, Shakir Ali, under Sections 7, 10, 17, 33A and 34 of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance.
He said these were highly rare species and trapping of and trading in them was banned under the wildlife protection laws. He said that these turtles/tortoises were in high demand in China and other Far Eastern countries, where they were considered delicacies and fetched high prices.
He said the seized protected wildlife species had been confiscated. They would be released in their respective habitat — Hawkesbay, Haleji Lake, Thatta, Sujawal districts, and near the Sindh-Balochistan border — after completion of legal formalities in a day or two.
According to experts, illicit wildlife trade of freshwater turtles is escalating in Pakistan as there have been a number of cases in which these animals, particularly the black pond species, have been confiscated in large numbers in recent years. Poaching and smuggling of freshwater turtles has led to a significant decline in their population.
Freshwater turtles are found in the entire Indus River system, including its tributaries, irrigation canals, ponds and water reservoirs. Pakistan has eight species of freshwater turtles which dominate aquatic habitats.
Two species of marine turtles nest on the Karachi coast — the green turtle (chelonia mydas) and the Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). The main threats are commercial trade in turtle skin, shell, medicines and cosmetics, and destruction of eggs by predators, especially dogs.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2018