Every so often an oddity of nature will hit the headlines, and this time it’s the turn of a yellow turtle that has been found in Pakistan.
The strange animal was found by villagers in Ghulam Mohammed Farooqui, a small settlement in Pakistan’s Badin province on Monday.
Villagers claim unique yellow turtle find
“We have never seen a yellow turtle and maybe this species is not found anywhere in the country,” said some villagers cited by Dawn. After finding the yellow turtle, villagers caught it and released it into a local fish pond.
One villager, named Siddique Bhurgari, told the press that they had called the wildlife department to tell them of the strange find. However no wildlife officials had visited the village.
Bhurgari said that yellow turtles had been seen in ponds around the village a few days prior. The Dawn journalist tried to contact wildlife officials, but none were immediately available for comment.
Pakistan has a turtle problem
Each and every species of freshwater turtle in Pakistan is endangered. They are protected by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan wildlife protection acts.
Experts believe that the illicit trade in freshwater turtles is growing in Pakistan. In recent years large numbers of the animals have been confiscated in various cases. The black pond species appears to be of particular interest to traffickers.
The poaching and smuggling of freshwater turtles in Pakistan is thought to be driven by demand from East Asian countries. The turtles are highly sought after in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Vietnam. As a result populations in Pakistan have been declining.
Yellow turtle one of many under threat
“Freshwater turtles of Pakistan are found in the entire Indus River system including its tributaries, irrigation canals, ponds and water reservoirs,” says the WWF-Pakistan website. “Pakistan has eight species of freshwater turtles which dominate aquatic habitats.”
Unfortunately the turtles have drawn the attention of smuggling gangs, which are reportedly led by Chinese nationals.
“Chinese smugglers have rented some bungalows in Karachi where local poachers bring them black pond turtles,” said wildlife official Adnan Hamid Khan. He was speaking at a workshop on illegal wildlife trade in Pakistan.
“These freshwater turtles are captured at rivers, canals and lakes linked with the Indus River system. Chinese smugglers sort them out according to animals’ desired size and weight to take them to their country while the rest are released in the residential areas of the city as they are of no use to them.”
WWF-Pakistan organized the four day workshop on the illegal wildlife trade in conjunction with USAID. The illegal smuggling of animals has become a problem, with local poachers selling to international traffickers.
“At the moment, we don’t know why black pond turtles are being smuggled but we have come to know that a gang of Chinese smugglers are behind it. We have also identified some Malaysians, who are interested in buying turtles from local poachers,” explained Khan.
According to Khan a Pakistani black pond turtle which weighs about one kilogram is worth around $1,500 in East Asian countries, such as China. Declining populations of freshwater turtles could have a negative impact on ecosystems in Pakistan.
“Turtles play a significant role in aquatic ecosystem being scavengers; they are responsible for cleaning the aquatic environment by feeding upon dead organic material and diseased fish. Freshwater turtles being a keystone species also control the population of fish,” says the WWF-P website.