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Regional symposium on marine turtles and their conservation concludes

Karachi, March 25, 2015 (PPI-OT): The two-day Regional Symposium on marine turtles and their conservation concluded in Karachi today, where experts from different countries participating in the event shared valuable experiences in turtle conservation in their countries, and provided best practices for Pakistan to follow.

The Symposium was organized by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature under its Saving the Endangered Sea Turtles project funded by USAID Small Grants and Ambassador Funds Program. The symposium was attended by marine turtle conservation experts from Bangladesh, Germany, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and UAE; while representatives from government line departments, environmental NGOs, academia, and private sector organizations also participated in the event. A media briefing was also organized at the closing of the session.

On the sidelines of the Symposium, a landmark court decision in the turtle smuggling case was also conveyed to the media by the Inspector General of Forests, Syed Mahmood Nasir, who was accompanied by Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, who had pursued the matter with the Sindh High Court. Mr. Siddiqui conveyed that a judgment had been passed on the smuggling case where over 200 turtles in two suitcases were confiscated at the Karachi airport.

“Such offences used to be dealt under trial courts and under the law such offences were taken as compoundable offences, where one paid a meager fine and then could go scot-free. In the case of 200 turtles while many of them died, but around 70-80 percent were released back into the natural habitat. Usually the material confiscated is returned to the smugglers as being their property, but in this case, the turtles were released as the case was under trial,” he said.

He added that “there were a number of issues related to wildlife smuggling and we wanted to cover the larger canvas of these issues related to smuggling; therefore we preferred to go to the High Court as it has constitutional jurisdiction. We intended to cover a large canvas of issues pertained to illegal trade of wildlife. Accepting our plea the Sindh High Court has passed a judgment that every person the constitutional right to live in a natural habitat with wildlife.”

In his closing remarks Malik Amin Aslam, IUCN global Vice said that efforts were needed not only to protect and conserve sea turtles within the national jurisdictions, but also across the region. “Conservation efforts in one country may prove less effective, if threats to these migratory animals persist in other countries,” he noted.

Syed Mahmood Nasir said that a suitcase full of black pond turtles from Pakistan would cost Rs.2.5 crores. “A single turtle having a worth Rs.100 a piece in Pakistanis priced upto around US$1780 per piece in Hong Kong market. It is an official figure conveyed to us by the Government of China. It used to be a minor offence, before the landmark judgment came out today,” he revealed

Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, Regional Director, IUCN Asia, mentioned about the elephant ivory and rhino horns illegal trade which was becoming highly lucrative in the international market and ran into trillions of dollars. “Since wildlife trade is illegal it also comes under the categories of drugs, arms and human trafficking trade. It undermines economies, legislations, and rules of law and endangers also the security of the system,” she disclosed.

There are two cases of smuggling that have been declared in the Judgment as cases of smuggling, the first involving 200 turtles and other the 4000 dead turtles. The sentence in smuggling under the Customs Act is fine twice the worth of the property. In the case involving 4000 dead turtles, the market value of the property was worth 60 crores and if the fine is imposed it would come to Rs.120 crores which is going to be a very heavy fine. About the case which was the basis of this judgment the court has asked the authorities to take further action against the accused.

Mr. Javed Ahmed Meher said that wildlife smuggling had become a source of income for various terrorist organizations and had few penalties and hefty financial returns. He further said that if the exit points were properly controlled then the smuggling could be mitigated.

Dr. Nicolas Piltcher said that a number of major threats to sea turtles were being faced but simultaneously conservation efforts have also been underway. “Many cases of sea turtle trapping go unreported, and the actual numbers of mortality could be in thousands –and therefore needs to be t addressed as a priority issue,” he said.

Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that this Symposium is indeed the way forward for us all to make further efforts to ensure that the strategic pursuit of such initiative continues. The first step is always the most difficult one, but we have already taken that first step with the completion of this project and the successful conclusion of this two-day symposium which has put forward some good recommendations.

For more information, contact:
George Sadiq
Programme Officer
Education, Communication and Outreach
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Pakistan Country Office
1, Bath Island Road,
Tel: +92-21-35861540
Fax: +92-21-35835760, +92-21-35761448, +92-21-35870287
Cell: +92-301-2931184
Email: george.sadiq@iucn.org
Website: www.iucn.org

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