170 turtles found inside wheat bags

11 of the turtles had died due to suffocation


Wildlife officials caught during a raid 170 black-horn turtles being smuggled from Punjab. The turtles were later released into Keenjhar Lake. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI:


The Sindh wildlife department recovered on Thursday 170 black-horn turtles during a raid near Northern Bypass on the Super Highway.


Unfortunately, 11 of the 170 turtles had died of suffocation as they were packed inside wheat bags, said Sindh wildlife department marine conservation in-charge Adnan Mehmood. As soon as the wildlife team approached the location, the smugglers fled, he said. Later, they were released into Keenjhar Lake.

Smuggling attempt: Over 1,964 freshwater turtles seized in Pakistan

The turtles were being smuggled from Taunsa in Punjab to Karachi, from where they would have been shipped to another country, said Mehmood. According to him, black-horn turtles are an endangered species and are worth millions of rupees.

Difficult to smuggle

The reason why more of these turtles are being recovered during raids is because their smuggling is now almost impossible to carry out, said World Wide Fund-Pakistan senior official Moazzam Khan. Smugglers from all over the country bring these turtles to Karachi and when they fail to smuggle them, they are caught by the authorities, he said.

According to him, people living in the Far East countries like to keep turtles as pets and they are also a popular food item. Black-horn turtles are indigenous to Pakistan and they have a very high demand in the international market, he said. The law has become very strict now and smugglers are finding it difficult to smuggle these turtles out of the country, he added.

62 turtles, 55 of them dead, handed over to wildlife dept

These smugglers have no knowledge about these turtles and what to feed them, which is why so many of them die during the transportation process, he said. In the last four months, thousands of turtles have been caught because of strict enforcement of the law. Turtles are a hot cake item for smugglers, said Khan.

This is the second recovery of turtles this month. In the first week of April, 62 turtles were rescued by the Jamshed Town police. These turtles were wrapped in tape and seven of them died of suffocation. In this case too, the culprits were not caught. Mehmood had quoted the police as saying that they have managed to collect information about the culprits and ensured that they will be arrested soon.



Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2016.

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