Freshwater turtle (Hardella thurjii indii)  Franck Bonin

Freshwater Turtles

Freshwater turtles of Pakistan are found in the entire Indus River system including its tributaries, irrigation canals, ponds and water reservoirs. Pakistan has eight species of freshwater turtles which dominate aquatic habitats. Freshwater turtles play a significant role in aquatic ecosystem being scavengers. These turtles are responsible for cleaning the aquatic environment by feeding upon dead organic material and diseased fish. Freshwater turtles being a keystone species, also control the population of fish.

Pakistan also hosts two species of terrestrial land tortoises. Habitat of these tortoises is semi-desert and dry rocky hills.


Freshwater turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii)  Franck Bonin
Freshwater turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) Franck Bonin
Freshwater turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) Franck Bonin
Turtle species of the world are confronting serious threats to their likely survival due to pessimistic environmental changes. The major problem with existing wild populations of turtles in the country is caused by illegal trade in body parts of softshell species on commercial scale. Other threats to freshwater turtles in Pakistan include habitat deterioration and fragmentation due to unsustainable development; scarcity of water in rivers, canals and water diversion and extraction projects for irrigation purpose; and water pollution. Human-wildlife conflict is adding to severity of catastrophe. Due to lack of awareness regarding ecological role of turtles in river ecosystems, turtles are perceived to be deleterious to fish economy by the fisher folk.

What WWF-Pakistan is doing?

Freshwater turtle (Lissemys punctata andersonii)  Franck Bonin
Freshwater turtle (Lissemys punctata andersonii) Franck Bonin
Freshwater turtle (Lissemys punctata andersonii) Franck Bonin
WWF-Pakistan explored illegal trade in body parts of freshwater turtle species in Pakistan.

WWF-Pakistan shared the Information with concerned government authorities to update the conservation status of turtle species in Pakistan. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department and Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department amended the wildlife legislation to include freshwater turtles in Schedule III which is the highest protection category of provincial wildlife protection acts. The Sindh Wildlife Department in the revised wildlife protection act of Sindh also included turtles in Schedule III.

WWF-Pakistan developed a poster on freshwater turtles of Pakistan to highlight the importance of these species and to create awareness among general public.

WWF-Pakistan through its ongoing projects and programmes in the Central Indus Region supports conservation of freshwater turtles by creating awareness on ecological importance of turtles; promoting sustainable use of natural resources; reducing by-catch of turtles; and introducing sustainable fishing practices.

WWF -Pakistan also facilitates the provincial wildlife departments in combating illegal trade in body parts of freshwater turtles by helping them in disposal of seized confiscations and when required, release of turtles in their natural habitats.

WWF -Pakistan in collaboration with Sindh Wildlife Department and Zoological Survey Department and with financial support of Behler Conservancy and Behler Chelonian Centre, USA conducted a reconnaissance survey to confirm the presence of Indian Star Tortoise in Nagarparkar, where it was historically reported.

What you can do to help?

Freshwater turtle (Pangshura smithii)  Franck Bonin
Freshwater turtle (Pangshura smithii) Franck Bonin
Freshwater turtle (Pangshura smithii) Franck Bonin
All the species of tortoises and freshwater turtles found in Pakistan are listed on CITES appendices. Netting, capturing and trading of any of these species for their body parts or as pets is illegal. You can write to us if you come across any illegal activity and play your role in controlling turtle trade.

Did you know?

Turtles have been found on the face of earth for almost 350 million years.

Turtles show nest fidelity. A female turtle returns to the same nesting ground from where it was hatched!

The order Chelonia exhibits temperature dependent sex. Nest temperature if greater than 30C produces females whereas below 30C males are born.