‘Neglect killed ailing turtle’

Updated July 21, 2019


Turtle died of wounds caused by a metallic object it had swallowed. ─ AP/File
Turtle died of wounds caused by a metallic object it had swallowed. ─ AP/File

KARACHI: The ailing female turtle recovered from Clifton’s shoreline by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and later handed over to the wildlife department died three days back, Dawn learnt on Saturday.

The turtle was rescued by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) which stated that it suffered from the ‘Bubble Butt Syndrome’.

According to the wildlife department, the turtle died of wounds caused by a metallic object inside its digestive tract, as suggested in an X-ray report.

“It’s a fishing hook that the turtle swallowed. The turtle also had injury marks on its body, which perhaps indicated its struggle to get out of the fishing net in which it got entangled,” wildlife conservator Javed Mahar said.

The turtle’s life might have been saved if diagnosis was made earlier, he added.

He criticised the WWF-P for keeping the female turtle without diagnosis and treatment for two days and that, too, illegally. The NGO, he said, neither informed, nor took permission from the wildlife department for its custody.

“They didn’t even know that it’s not a green sea turtle but an olive ridley species,” he said, adding that the conservation status of the former was endangered whereas of the latter was critically endangered in Sindh.

Another turtle ‘rescued’

The department, according to its officials, had recovered and rescued another turtle of the same species a month back from a family in Karachi and later released it at the Hawkesbay beach. The family caught the turtle from the same beach and took it home.

The recording of a critically endangered species twice in a month’s time has forced the department to look deeper into its arrival on the beach.

“Apart from the fact that this is olive ridley’s breeding season, I think there are some unseen factors forcing this species to come to our shores as it had stopped visiting since late 1990s and now is rarely seen. This was because their habitat (the Sandspit/Hawkesbay area) was destroyed [due to illegal construction of huts close to the beach],” he explained.

Meanwhile, the department has handed over the remains of the ailing turtle to a taxidermist for stuffing. Once ready, the specimen would be placed in the wildlife department’s museum.

The department has also initiated efforts to make its turtle conservation centre in the Hawkesbay area functional and carry out monitoring of the beach.

Upon contact, Mohammad Moazzam Khan of the WWF-P said the wildlife department was informed about the ailing turtle last Monday, but its staff came to take its custody the following day.

“We tried to contact them at the department’s office number the same day we rescued it. But nobody picked up the phone and I didn’t have the mobile number of any of their staff,” he said.

On lack of treatment, he said: “We didn’t know that it [had] a fishing hook inside its body. It was a rare occurrence. The wildlife department carried out an X-ray of the injured turtle after its death and not when it was alive.”

He, however, admitted mistake in its identification and said that it was an olive ridley species and not a green turtle.

Four marine turtle species have been reported along Pakistan’s coast. The other two species are loggerhead sea turtle and hawksbill sea turtle.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2019