Distribution : Pakistan
Nesting species: olive ridley, green
Pakistan has a coastline of about 1,050 km; 250 km of this stretch falls within the Sindh province (to the east and bordering India) and 800 km in Balochistan (in the west, bordering Iran). The coast to the west of the Karachi harbour up to Buleji consists of the sandy beaches of Manora, Sandspit and Hawksbay. Two species of marine turtles occur in Pakistan–the olive ridley and the green turtle, which are known to nest at Hawksbay–Sandspit, a stretch of 20 km on the Karachi coast. An aerial survey of the Balochistan coast revealed three major nesting sites, which may support mostly green turtle nesting, like the Karachi coast. These sites are currently listed as Ramsar sites and include the Ormara turtle beaches, Astola (Haft Talar) Island (a small, uninhabited island about 6 km in length) and the Jiwani coastal wetlands. In addition, a small population also nests on the beaches of Hingol National Park to the east of Ormara. The Sindh Wildlife Department has been working on conservation of green turtles and olive ridleys for over two decades at Hawksbay and Sandspit. The Pakistan Wetlands Programme and WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with the Balochistan Forest and Wildlife Department have been working on conserving nesting beaches and nesting populations of green turtles on the beaches of Balochistan.
Nesting and hatching of green turtles takes place all through the year, with peak nesting in November and peak hatching in October. Although the greatest number of turtles nest in November, rain and low temperatures in the following weeks cause most of the eggs to perish. Therefore, eggs laid in August, September and October stand a greater chance of survival and hatch respectively in September, October and November. It is, however, observed that green turtles do not nest in Balochistan from April to July. Unlike the green turtles, the olive ridley turtles show a distinct nesting season and are only seen in the waters and on the beaches during these months. Their nesting coincides with the monsoon period, starting in June and ending post-monsoon, in October.
Marine turtles in Pakistan face multiple threats today. Egg predation and incidental catch in fishing craft pose a major threat to these reptiles. Turtles have also died due to oil pollution from vessels. With the development of port facilities along the Sindh coast, economic activities in the area have increased manifold. These activities, together with an increasing population, have also contributed to the pressure on the coastal ecosystem. Turtles are usually not killed due to religious reasons but surveys have shown that in some areas of Pakistan, direct take of marine turtles has increased as a result of higher human population levels, more efficient capture techniques, or the breakdown of cultural restrictions. Incidental capture of marine turtles in fisheries is considered by many to be the greatest single threat to the survival of marine turtles in Pakistan today. In Balochistan, depredation on green turtle hatchlings by sea gulls, crows, foxes and jackals and stray dogs takes an additional toll. The development of Gwadar as a port city and the operation of the Gwadar port is expected to take away many of the small beaches that serve as nesting habitats for the turtles in the locality.
The Sindh Wildlife Department has been working on conservation of green turtles and olive ridleys for over two decades at Hawksbay and Sandspit. The project, initiated by the WWF in 1979, and subsequently executed by the Government of Sindh focused on protection of eggs and hatchlings, and monitoring of the population status of the turtles.
According to the second schedule of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance of 1972, all marine turtles in the province enjoy the status of ‘protected animal’. Pakistan is also a signatory to the Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and acknowledges the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which lists the green turtle.
Source: Qureshi, M.T. 2006. Sea turtles of Pakistan. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 217–224. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
Frazier, J. 1980. Exploitation of marine turtles in the Indian Ocean. Human Ecology 8(4): 329–370.
Kabraji, A.M. & F. Firdous. 1984. Conservation of turtles, Hawkesbay and Sandspit, Pakistan. Project Report. WWF and Sind Wildlife Management Board.
Groombridge, B. & R. Luxmoore. 1989. The green turtle and hawksbill Reptilia: Chelonidae: World status, exploitation and trade. Lausanne: CITES Secretariat. 601 pp.
Firdous, F. 1991. A turtle’s journey from Pakistan (Karachi) to India (Gujarat). Marine Turtle Newsletter 53: 18–19.
Asrar, F.F. 1999. Decline of marine turtle nesting populations in Pakistan. Marine Turtle Newsletter 83: 13–14.
Qureshi, M.T. 2006. Sea turtles of Pakistan. In: Marine turtles of the Indian subcontinent (Eds. Shanker, K. & B.C. Choudhury). Pp. 217–224. Universities Press (India) Private Ltd.
World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan, Lahore