First evidence of a leatherback turtle along Pakistan’s coastline
WWF-Pakistan staff helped in the rescue and release of this turtle. This rescue, along with the recent location of a large population of olive Ridley turtles from offshore waters previously thought to be extinct from the area, is a positive sign for the marine biodiversity of Pakistan.
Along the coast of Pakistan five species of marine turtles are reported to occur which include green, olive Ridley, hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Of these, leatherback is considered to be the rarest species occurring along the area and indeed globally; they are one of the most endangered species of marine turtles.
Previously there were a number of reports about occurrence of leatherback from Pakistan including a dead leatherback turtle recorded from Pushukan near Gwadar in 2002 but no living turtle was recorded from the country before.
Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser in marine fisheries for WWF-Pakistan pointed out that since leatherback turtles feed only jellyfish, their occurrence in the country may be on account of a recurrence of jellyfish blooms in the coastal areas. He pointed out that the global population of this species was estimated to be 115,000 adult females in 1982. By 1996 this had been revised down to about 30-40,000.
Leatherback populations in the Indian Ocean have undergone dramatic declines in the past forty years. The nesting colony at Terengganu, Malaysia went from more than 3,000 females in 1968, to 20 in 1993, to just 2 recorded recently with no signs of recovery.
WWF-Pakistan with the support of provincial wildlife departments has been involved in turtle conservation and awareness programmes along Sindh and Balochistan coasts for almost two decades. With the establishment and strengthening of sanctuaries and wildlife refuges as well as awareness raising activities, local communities are now better equipped to protect turtles and their nests and reduce bycatch in fishing gears as evidence from the recent finds show.