Sindh's turtles are fast disappearing because of animal trafficking.
The turtles are being illegally exported to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan, where they are eaten or used for medicinal purposes or in the preparation of artificial jewellery.
One turtle is sold for around Rs200 in Karachi. The fishermen then smuggle the meat abroad and sell it for Rs30,000-35,000 per kilogramme, which would cost Rs5,000 in Pakistan. The meat is dried and stored in containers.
The demand is quite high for these turtles in the international market.
People in interior Sindh catch turtles because of poverty, lack of education and unemployment, as it is a lucrative business.
Before 2007, sweet water turtles in Pakistan were not included in the endangered species list, but now, they are considered an endangered species in all provinces of the country. In 2014, the Sindh government added eight species of turtles in ‘Sindh’s Most Endangered Wildlife Species’ list. The turtles located in the waters on either side of the Indus River (till the Kotri Barrage) are the prime targets and prey of the smuggling mafia.
Wildlife inspector Ali Shah lamented there is a lack of staff to carry out raids and foil smuggling bids.
So what makes smuggling so easy?
According to a wildlife department spokesperson, smugglers are let go just after paying a minimal fine. Experts say the law should be stricter and people should serve jail time apart from paying a fine.