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Diversity, Distribution and Threats to Freshwater Turtles in Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan

Diversity, Distribution and Threats to Freshwater Turtles in Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan

Anjum Ara1, Usman Ali1, Muhammad Furqan2*, Zulfiqar Ali2
Muhammad Mudassar Shahzad3, Khawaja Basharat Ahmed4
Riaz Aziz Minhas4, Waqar Ahmed2, Zakir Hussain2 and Mian Aman Ullah2

1Department of Zoology, Mirpur University of Science and Technology, Mirpur, AJ and K
2Department of Zoology, University of the Punjab, Quaid-i-Azam Campus, Lahore.
3Department of Zoology, Division of Science and Technology, University of Education, Lahore
4Department of Zoology, University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Muzaffarabad
 
* Corresponding author: furqanzoologist@gmail.com

ABSTRACT

Turtles are important component of freshwater ecosystem, but their population is decreasing worldwide. Eight freshwater turtle species have been reported from Pakistan. The present study aimed to investigate the diversity, distribution, threats and conservation of freshwater turtles in Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan where no research work was done previously. Study area was divided in three study zones (Mirpur, Dadhyal and Chakswari) along the Jhelum river and further sub-divided into 18 localities. Line transect, hand capture, visual survey, tracking, trapping methods were applied to collect data related to diversity, distribution, density and questionnaire method applied to assess threats. Analysis of data revealed that four freshwater turtle species including Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctate), Indian narrow headed softshell turtle (Chitra indica) Indian softshell turtle (Nilssonia gangetica) and Crowned river turtle (Hardella thurjii) were identified and distributed in all study zones. Lissemys punctata was recorded as the most common (73.72%) species while Hardella thurjii was the rare (6.74%). Highly significant difference (df=3, p=0.00) was noted among turtle species. Maximum population density (16.67 turtle/km2) recorded in Mirpur zone followed by Chakswari (12 turtle/km2) and minimum population density was recorded at Dadhyal zone (7.17 turtle/km2). Most favorite altitudinal level was 300 m and below with the highest population density of 16.8 turtle/km2 whereas lowest population density of 6.12 turtle/km2 was recorded in Class III (above 400 m). Maximum population density (20.7 turtle/km2) was recorded in the month of June while minimum population density (6 turtle/km2) was noted in the month of April. Freshwater turtles faced various threats including killing for commercial use (73%), medicinal use (13%). Habitat degradation (32%) due to pollution, poisonous chemicals and cruel fishing techniques are serious issues for their survival while anthropogenic activities (10%) are responsible due to destruction of habitat. Limited awareness was observed among local inhabitants regarding importance, ecological role and legal status of freshwater turtles. Awareness and strict law enforcement is recommended to reduce illegal turtle trade and conserve these important species.

 

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Pakistan Journal of Zoology

August

Vol. 54, Iss. 4, Pages 1501-2001

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