Four cases of smuggling endangered turtles reported
ISLAMABAD: Four cases of smuggling an endangered species of turtles out of Pakistan have been reported since February this year.
The black spotted turtle is listed in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, which makes importing or exporting them illegal and are also included in the International Endangered Species Act.
However, the reptiles are in demand the world over as pets as well as for medicinal purposes, especially in the Far East and one turtle, dead or alive, can be worth between $1,000 and $1,700.
Cases of smuggling black pond turtles out of Pakistan were reported in February, April, May and June this year.
In-charge Marine Conservation Turtle, Adnan Khan told Dawn there was a lot of money to be earned from the smuggling of any rare and endangered species.
Turtles are in demand as pets and for medicinal purposes
“Smuggling 200 turtles out of Pakistan costs no more than Rs2.5 million and can earn more than Rs30 million, whether the turtles are dead or alive,” Mr Khan said.
Adnan Khan caught a consignment of 700 kilograms of dead black spotted pond turtles in 2005.
He said wildlife officials should be posted at international and local entry and exit points, including airports and railway stations.
Most of the delicate reptiles do not survive a smuggling attempt, he said, and suspected that a Chinese national was involved in the more recent case of attempted turtle smuggling in June this year.
In the case he was referring to, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department had caught a consignment of 508 spotted turtles hidden in a container of potatoes that were shipped out of Port Qasim in Karachi.
“Only 25 or 26 of the 508 turtles survived the long journey,” said Inspector General Forests, Mehmood Nasir, who added that the animals had died of suffocation.
The Plant Protection Department had cleared the consignment of potatoes for export two days before departure.
“The turtles were hidden in the container of potatoes later. Smugglers use various tactics to smuggle the animals out of Pakistan. One time, they were hidden in plaster of Paris so they are not detected and another time, they were hidden in children’s nappies,” said Wasim Khan of Marine and Fisheries Department, Sindh.
According to the Ministry of Climate Change, the exact number of turtles in the wild, with dark brown or black shells and marked with yellow spots is not known.
Black pond turtles are also a natural filter of sorts and clear water bodies of germs that cause hepatitis and are mostly found in lakes, rivers and ponds linked with the Indus River in Pakistan.
“Customs departments should be educated about threatened species in Pakistan and wildlife offices strengthened in order to stop the illegal trade of endangered species,” said IG Forest Mehmood Nasir.