KARACHI: Black spotted turtles of freshwaters totaling 173 has been released into Haleji Lake Thatta-their natural habitat on Thursday as they had been recovered from smugglers.
Customs and Wildlife authorities at Quaid-e-Azam International Airport Karachi had seized consignment of 218 turtles On September 20, 2014. Out of total 45 mortalities took place due to suffocation and injuries caused during their transportation.
District Court Malir ordered the immediate release of the turtles into their natural habitat. Representatives of Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) and World Wildlife Fund Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) attended the ceremony held at Asia’s largest bird asylum andRamsar site of Haleji Lake.
However it were school children who along with media teams remained keen to capture the release scene in their cameras as part of a broader initiative to support conservation of the unique freshwater species. As the formal procedure started with turtles moving towards their destiny slowly released by individuals, jubilant kids could not hold themselves by clapping celebrating the freedom of species.
Abdul Rehman Abro (15) a student of metric from Government High School Makli said it was good to see turtles were back to their natural habitat. Besides keeping an eye over theft, we should also care the species, said Abro.
Next was Gohar Umrani who seemed anxious for his input. Through this ceremony, we happy these species were going back into their habitat we appeal everyone for cleanliness of the wetlands, said 14-year Umari, the student of ninth grade. Another student of same grade Aamir Gopang said there were many beautiful lakes in Pakistan. It was our duty to protect the wetlands as well the species living there. Their teacher Ali Muhammad Soomro stressed on the need not allowing anyone to disturb the natural phenomenon and outstanding wildlife treasures.
Turtle smuggling came into the limelight when Chinese Customs confiscated a consignment of 220 black spotted turtles near Pak-China Border.
As per Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which Pakistan is also a signatory, the turtles were repatriated to their country of origin. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put five of the eight different species of freshwater turtles found in Pakistan on Red List as these five are globally threatened.
The ceremony was informed turtles exist along entire Indus River and in other wetlands are vital part of fresh water ecosystem. These turtles perform various ecological services that are disturbed if they are withdrawn from the system.
Javed Maher Conservator SWD said next hearing on the illegal smuggling case would be held on October 4, 2014. We hope Court might impose heavy penalty to the offender including two-year imprisonment, said Maher.
Uzma Noureen Project Coordinator WWF-Pakistan said illegal trade of black spotted turtles has escalated due to higher market demand over the past two years. She said freshwater turtles were illegally exported from Pakistan to China, Hong Kong and East Asian countries. The eco system is modified and collapsed if equation is disturbed. Turtles are carnivores and scavengers. Age of turtles is around two hundred million years. Because of their survival they are also called ‘living fossils, she added.
Altaf Hussain Sheikh, Umair Shaid and others said turtle release was a great achievement as everyone now became sensitised to act against illegal wildlife trade.
October 03, 2014