KARACHI: Every year May 23 is observed as World Turtle Day internationally to highlight the importance of tortoise and the turtle, while in Pakistan five species of marine turtles suffer with marine pollution and illegal wildlife trade is posing serious threats to eight species of freshwater turtles.
According to World Wildlife Fund for Nature-WWF Pakistan, there are five species of marine turtles visiting Pakistani coast. But the pouring of domestic and industrial effluents and solid waste into the sea in Karachi is posing serious threats to the marine turtles along the shores.
The five species include Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Olive ridley and Green turtles are reported to be seen in Pakistan. Green sea turtles and Olive ridley are known to visit Pakistani coast for nesting particularly Sandspit and Hawksbay in Sindh and Ormara, Astola Island and Jiwani in Balochistan.
"There is little evidence available on nesting and breeding of olive ridley in Pakistan since 2012 which might be a sign of the extirpation of the species," states the assessment conducted by WWF-Pakistan, however, it has confirmed a good population of the species in offshore waters of Pakistan.
On the occasion of the World Turtle Day, WWF-Pakistan urged key stakeholders to join hands to strengthen efforts for the protection of declining turtle populations of Pakistan. Turtles have been known as one of the oldest group of reptiles on earth, which are facing several challenges to their survival primarily as an outcome to human-induced threats which include habitat reduction and degradation, fishing induced mortalities, pollution and illegal trade among others.
In addition, eight species of freshwater turtles are found in the Indus River system. Besides, two species of tortoises also exist in Pakistan. The illegal trade of these reptiles, particularly for the demand of their meat and body parts in the East Asian countries stays key challenge to their survival besides habitat degradation and fishing induced mortalities.
According to Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes of WWF-Pakistan, 'the recent seizure of over 350 individual of Afghan tortoises is also reminder of the fact that illegal trafficking of these reptiles is a persistent threat to their survival and this can only be halted through effective enforcement of laws, alleviation of main driver such as poverty and awareness raising at all levels. WWF-Pakistan is working in close collaboration with Federal Ministry of Climate Change, provincial wildlife departments, Pakistan Customs and other law enforcing and border security agencies for controlling illegal trade of live freshwater turtles and their parts. 'In this context, a number of consignments were confiscated by these agencies; most of which were released in presence of WWF-Pakistan', he added.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries) WWF-Pakistan stressed on the need to take concerted efforts for the protection of turtles particularly those of marine origin threatened by several challenges and fishing induced mortalities is of prime importance. He also shared that WWF-Pakistan also plans to initiate to radio track to understand migration pattern of species like Olive ridely in the Arabian Sea to facilitate informed conservation strategy development. He further added that WWF-Pakistan plans to start an awareness and training programme for fishermen to properly install and use Turtle Excluding Devices (TEDS) in their trawl nets to avoid their entanglement in the fishing nets and associated mortalities.