The Suffering Turtles of Pakistan

Habitat degradation and smuggling of diesel from Iran are posing existential threats to the green turtles in the coastal areas of Daran, Balochistan, according to the World Wide Fund (WWF).

Owing to a conjunction of factors, including mortality during fishing operations, pollution, habitat degradation and climate change, a change in the scutes of two turtles was observed on the shores of Daran.

Disfigurement in the size of turtles and their scutes has not been observed on any other coastal area of Pakistan, leading to speculations that this particular aberration may also be caused by oil spill.

The sea route between the two countries has been illegally used to trade fuel with the help of heavy-weight jerry cans, prompting fears about the hazards it poses to wildlife.

Photos released by WWF showed that Daran, a small coastal area between the Pak-Iran border, being used for smuggling fuel from Iran. Hundreds of people can be seen swarming the shores with nearly 50 pickups.

In October 2020, the authorities took action against the smugglers. However, the measures taken by the authorities to deter the illegal trade failed and the smugglers switched to the land route to avert such future actions.

The coast remains the hub of fuel smuggling carried out in broad daylight for around.

According to WWF Pakistan Technical Adviser Moazzam Khan, the oil spill from heavy weight oil-filled jerry cans in turtle nesting areas poses a serious threat to the population of green turtle.

Moreover, the proliferation of human activity on the beach also hardens the sand, making it difficult for female turtles to form nest in sand, while the stench of oil on the shore can force them to return.

The eggs are then deformed and damaged under the weight of the hardened sand, causing a dramatic change in the new species of turtles.

The smuggling of oil stopped on the coast for a brief period. However, the illegal trade came back to the coast with full sweep last February.

Along with marine turtles, their freshwater cousins are also confronting serious threats, which include Illegal poaching, water shortage, fragmentation of rivers and canals and fishing operations.

Export of freshwater turtle meat, which is banned, is considered as the main threat to these vulnerable species.

Agencies like WWF-Pakistan, provincial wildlife departments, Pakistan Customs and other stakeholders are keeping a vigil to control the illegal trade of the turtle species but efforts result in little or no impact at all.

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