Yellow turtle is albino, not a new species, says wildlife dept official
KARACHI: With reference to reports circulated in social, print and electronic media regarding a yellow turtle found near Nindo town of Badin district being a new species, the Sindh wildlife ministry on Thursday said it was not rare as the turtle was albino.
Saeed Akhtar Balouch, conservator in the ministry, said the turtle portrayed in pictures and footages was an albino amongst the Lissemys punctata (Indian flap shell turtle), a freshwater water turtle species found in South Asia.
He said the Indian flap shell turtle was declared under the second schedule of Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972 as protected animal and was placed in the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“The Indian flap shell turtle — commonly found in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma — is known to be omnivorous and its diet consists of frogs, fishes, shrimp, snails, aquatic vegetation, plant leaves, flowers, fruits, grasses and seeds,” said the official.
“It lives in the shallow quiet often stagnant waters of rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, lakes and irrigation canals.”
Mr Balouch said the species was not new to Sindh or Pakistan but due to albinism congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of tyrosine, a copper-containing enzyme involved in the production of melanin.
“It is the opposite of melanism,” he said. “Unlike human, other animals have multiple pigments and for these, albinism is considered to be a hereditary condition characterised by the absence of melanin particularly in eyes, skin, hair, scales, feathers or cuticle.”
He said the field staff of Badin district had already been asked to check and report for further scientific investigation of the species from academia and turtle experts.
Speaking to reporters, the wildlife official denied reports about mortality of several black-spotted turtles released in Kaller Lake of Sukkur district.
Mr Balouch said there was no evidence found of such high level mortality of black pond turtle at Kaller Lake during his visit on Tuesday as reported in electronic media late night of the same day. He said he spent a whole day on the spot and checked suitability of the lake personally and also met the surrounding community.
Mr Balouch informed to the media that the place chosen for the release of turtle, i.e., Kaller Lake, was found as most suitable habitat as the black pond turtles commonly found in the quite shallow often stagnant waters of river, streams, marshes, pond, lakes and irrigation canals.
The Kaller Lake was fed directly from Indus River. He added that about 218 black pond turtles were also released in the same lake in 2014 which were repatriated from China where they were attempted to be smuggled from Pakistan and the same were enjoying their free life there.
He said the field staff had already been deployed with strict instructions to provide maximum protection to the released turtles and indication signboards were placed at the lake for information or in case of any mishap.