By M. Waqar Bhatti
Karachi, Pakistan — Marine scientists associated with the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan have observed rare Olive Ridley turtles, the endangered specie of turtles believed to have become extinct several years back, on Pakistani shores recently.
WWF-Pakistan officials said on Friday that they have recorded presence of a viable population of Olive Ridley turtle in Pakistan after seven years.
“Two species of marine turtles - Green turtle and Olive Ridley turtle - used to abound our side of the Arabian Sea and frequently visiting some of the selected sandy beaches along the coast of Pakistan. Female Olive Ridley turtles are frequent visitors of sandy beaches at Hawks Bay and Sandspit but scientists and the Sindh Wildlife Department have observed sudden decline in the population in early 2000 and since then no Olive Ridley turtle was witnessed in Pakistan,” said Rab Nawaz, a WWF-Pakistan official based in Sindh.
He said it was generally accepted that Olive Ridley turtle had become extinct.
WWF-Pakistan has initiated a study on the population of turtle affected by fishing operations and during one of the cruises undertaken during this month two turtles were observed entangled in gillnet off Sindh coast.
Of these, one of the turtles entangled off Ghora Bari was observed to be an Olive Ridley turtle, the WWF official said, adding that their staff took the necessary details and successfully released this turtle back into the sea. Scientists have shown excitement on the rediscovery of this turtle from Pakistani waters.
According to WWF-Pakistan officials, Dr. Fahmida Firdous, a Turtle Biologist working for Sindh Wildlife Department, had pointed out their absence from Pakistani waters since 2005.
Dr Babar Hussain, who is Ph.D in marine turtles and presently working for the Federal Urdu University, had also confirmed the absence of Olive Ridley from Pakistani waters.
“Rediscovery of Olive Ridley turtle in Pakistani waters is a good sign indicating that marine environment, which is seriously threatened by marine pollution, habitat degradation and fishing operation, still have adequate potential to support these unique species,” Rab Nawaz observed.
He went on to add that though reports of this species have been coming in from Balochistan, these were not confirmed, and the species had certainly been absent from Sindh.
The WWF-Pakistan official further said that they need to declare a marine protected area to ensure that these species remain present for future generations.