When the Greek-registered Tasman Spirit ran aground
on July 27, 2003 off the Karachi coast, no one was aware of a saga
that had to take place in the coming days. A full-scale damage came on
August 14 when it split into two causing unprecedented ecological
devastation in the history of Pakistan by spilling over 37,000 tonnes
of Iranian light crude of total 67,000 tonnes in its tankers.
While billions of rupees monetary losses are still
pending for international arbitration, it caused some irreparable
losses as well when the spilled oil killed three Olive Ridley Turtles
and four Green Turtles, the two rarest species of Chelonia group.
This great but one time loss may not reoccur in
future but fatality still pose serious threat to these two species.
This man-made threat crops out of mushroom growth of commercial huts
along the Sandpit and Hawksbay beaches, which ever rising real estate
value allures contractors to build more and more huts on the shore of
Arabian coast regardless to environmental concerns.
Green Turtle is found in the three tropical oceans.
It may weigh upto 200 kilograms and have a shell almost 130 cm long.
Marine turtles are a species of special concern and are included in
the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) strategic plan. Globally there are
eight species of marine turtles and are all classified as endangered.
Green Turtle are the species of marine turtles that nest along the
Sandpit and Hawksbay beaches at Karachi coast.
These species are listed in the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered species, Pakistan is signatory of
Turtle mates in the water, with the male hugging
the females using special claws. These turtles come on land and they
only come to lay their eggs. Female waits for darkness to come to the
shore. At this stage, which is known as stranding, she is very easily
disturbed and any noise or light sends her away. When a safe spot
above the high tide watermark is reached, the turtle begins to dig a
body pit using her front flippers only. As the pit becomes bigger, she
will begin to use her back flippers as well. Once the body pit has
been dug, the hind flippers begin to dig a flask-shaped nest activity.
This activity is as deep as the length of the hind flipper and the
turtle lays 80-120 eggs in it. After she finishes laying eggs, the
turtle covers the nest cavity and the body pit with lots of sand so
that it is quite difficult to trace where the eggs where actually
The baby turtle hatch in 40 to 60 days and their
first problem is to get to the surface without help — neither of the
parents is there to help them.
Having surfaced, the hatchlings face more enemies
than they will ever face again. Crabs, birds and dogs all feed on
hatchling and many are killed as they crawl down to the sea.
The WWF Pakistan in collaboration with Sindh
Wildlife Department has been involved monitoring turtle population and
rescuing stranded hatchlings since 2000 after realization of
The efforts of the WWF are paying but unabated
threats call for greater civic involvement.
"We rescued over 35,000 hatchlings of Green
Turtle since September 2004 to last month as compared to 13,000
hatchlings in 2003," said Babar Hussain, conservation officer WWF,
at the centre amid the wetland near the Sandpit beach set up to rescue
the endangered specie. Natural dangers like crabs, crow and seagull,
may remain an imminent threat to the Green turtle breeding process but
the miles long row of cemented huts, which have been constructed along
the two beaches is the most pathetic phenomenon.
Construction of these huts involves ruthless
dredging of sand ahead of the huts, which creates pits hindering
smooth landing of female turtles who sails through the waters to reach
the upper portion of the beach by using her front flippers.
"These pits disallow turtles entry onto the
beaches," Babar said expressing his concern.
Not only the pits but elevation of the huts also
carry nets, which strangle into the neck of crawling turtles.
"Most of the huts are equipped with such nets
which are literally death traps for the turtles," he said.
Hundreds of thousand people visits Sandpit and
Hawksbay beaches annually, especially in summer to beat the scorching
heat. Post dusk witness a tremendous turn up of turtles from the sea
to the shore and the picnickers try to ride over them.
WWF strongly appeals the visiting or living by
people to avoid loud noise and sudden movements on the beach and do
not use flashlights on the beach. One must keep a 5-kilometer distance
if a turtle is spotted lest it may leave the beach without nesting.
"We are also trying to involve other citizen
organisations to create greater awareness and stop increasing
hostility for this endangered specie."