Confiscated rare turtles released innative Indus after long journey from China

Deterring Illegal Wildlife Trade

Jamil Khan
SUKKUR:
In a brief but momentous ceremony held in Sukkur today, the rare turtles smuggled from Pakistan into China and repatriated recently were released in their native habitat alongside the Indus Riverin Kalar block near Rohri. The long journey home for the black pond turtle also marks a significant achievement for global efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade.

The turtle release ceremony was organized by the Sindh Wildlife Department and presided over by Naila Khan, Secretary to Government of Sindh for Forests, Environment and Wildlife Department; and attended amongst others by Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan; senior government officials, representatives of WWF Pakistan. The media also participated in the event, which took place at Kalar Block, in Rohri Forest, near Sukkur.

This was the first time ever in the history of Pakistan that smuggled turtles were repatriated. The turtles were repatriated to Pakistan in August after they were seized in Taxkorgan in June 2014. The repatriation of smuggled turtles was coordinated by Syed Mahmood Nasir, Inspector General of Forests, Climate Change Division, Islamabad and Mr. WAN Zimming, Coordinator, National Inter-agency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (NICECG)/Director Law Enforcement and Training Division CITES Management Authority of China.

Mr. Javed Ahmad Mahar, the Conservator of Sindh Wildlife Department along with other senior government officials received the consignment of smuggled turtles in a ceremony held at Khunjrab Pass on Pakistan-China border on August 18, 2014 from where the rare species made their arduous journey back to Sukkur where they were kept under a quarantine center for four weeks before their release in the wild today. The international experts of Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission provided the needed technical advice on their feeding and release into their native habitat.

The black pond turtle is listed as vulnerable in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and included in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The black pond turtle also known as the spotted turtle is native to southern Pakistan (Indus River) India (Ganges River and Assam), Nepal and Bangladesh.

Speaking on the occasion, SecretaryNaila Khan termed the release as a historic moment for the Sindh province. She vowed that Sindh government has assigned protected status to freshwater turtles and is taking measures for institutional strengthening of Sindh Wildlife Department in order to conserve our wildlife heritage of the province effectively and curtail illegal wildlife trade.

IUCN Country Representative, Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, viewed the event as historic and stressed on need for regional collaboration to prevent illegal wildlife trade. He said: “IUCN is supporting Climate Change Division in the preparation of CITES rules for Pakistan, and is preparing proposals at the national and regional levels to address issues of trans-boundary wildlife conservation and prevention of illegal wildlife trafficking. He offered IUCN’s technical support to Sindh Wildlife Department in preparation of comprehensive programme for conservation of wildlife in the Sindh province.”

The Conservator of Sindh Wildlife Department Javed Ahmad Maharappreciated the support of IUCN Pakistan and WWF Pakistan in providing the needed financial and technical support in the repatriation and release of the smuggled turtle and said that despite resource and capacity constraints the Sindh Wildlife Department was making dedicated efforts to save the precious wildlife resources of the province.