GILGIT (ET): The Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) forest department has seized 34 endangered turtles being smuggled into China.
The turtles were seized from the luggage of a Chinese national at a check post in Sost near the Pak-China border, Wildlife Conservator Wilayat Noor told The Express Tribune on Sunday. He said the Chinese national, Chuch Bin, has been arrested and the turtles have been transported to Gilgit.
“It is a big achievement as we have recovered all the turtles alive. I appreciate the efforts of all those who made it possible,” said Noor.
Pervaiz Iqbal, a border guard of the G-B forest department, said the Chinese national’s luggage was checked on Thursday after his behaviour “seemed suspicious”. Upon inspection, they found the turtles hidden in cardboard boxes and bags.
Rehmat Ali, a senior conservationist at WWF Gilgit office said the man was taken into custody and presented before the court of a civil judge in Hunza. The judge indicted the Chinese national and fined him Rs2,000 under the Wildlife Act of 1975.
Investigation revealed that the accused spent nearly three months in Rawalpindi, picking up the turtles from various areas of the Pothohar region, including the Kallar Kahar Lake.
“These are the freshwater turtles found in the Pothohar region of Pakistan,” said Babar Khan, the head of World Wide Fund for Nature in G-B.
He said these species of turtles are categorised as “threatened” under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and are in high demand in China for their skin and meat. One turtle is sold for around Rs150,000, he added.
Divisional Forest Officer Wildlife Aftab Mehmood said the lives of the turtles were in danger as they have been kept away from their natural habitat for quite long.
“The biggest task at hand is their immediate rehabilitation and for that matter we have made arrangements,” he said, adding that the turtle would be released in lakes such as the Kallar Kahar Lake