By Kiranman Bajracharya
As illegal trade in turtles continues, scientists wonder if the animal will survive into the next decade.
Dr Karn Bahadur Sah, a turtle specialist, said, “Turtles are illegally trapped from rivers, ponds, and reservoirs for meat and medicinal purposes. If the illegal trade in turtles is not checked soon, the animal may soon be on the verge of extinction.”
“The market demand for turtle is increasing but lack of initiatives to check illegal trade in the animal poses a grave threat to their survival,” said Sah.
“Deforestation, pollution and construction of physical infrastructure near the rivers is destroying turtle habitat,” he added. Scientists say around half of the total 330 species of turtles found across the globe have already become extinct. As many as 16 turtle species are found in Nepal.
According to Mohan Bishwakarma, a conservationist, illegal trade in turtles is rampant in Kapilvastu and Mahendranagar. “Our studies conducted between 2008 to 2010 shows 40 turtles are trapped per week.”
Another member of the study team Prakash Aryal said, “The turtles smuggled from India to Nepal are illegally taken to China via Tatopani border. One kilo of turtle costs Rs 150 rupees in India, while the same quantity of turtle meat is sold for Rs 15,000 in China. It is traditionally used for preparing medicine.”
As compared to the past, the sale of turtle has drastically declined this year, said Biraj Chaudhary, another conservationist.
National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 2029 BS has outlawed trade in turtles. Besides, Nepal is also a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
As per the existing laws, anyone convicted of illegal trade in turtles may be fined up to Rs 10,000 or slapped a jail term of two years.
Conservationists, however, lamented the government´s apathy to increasing illegal trade in turtles.