Dr Fehmida Firdous – Pakistan
The efforts of Dr Fehmida Firdous, known as the ‘Turtle Lady of Pakistan’ to save marine turtles has earned accolade from the country’s President and international media attention.
Fehmida, who works for IUCN Member organization the Sindh Wildlife Department, and is a member of IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group, began her career in 1980 after earning her masters degree in Marine Biology and Zoology. Since then, together with a team of six people, she has protected around 2.5 million eggs from 25,000 turtles and safely released more than 700,000 hatchlings into the sea.
During her work at the turtles’ hatcheries at the Hawk’s Bay and Sandspit beaches, she has talked to students, curious visitors and the media about conservation and turtle biology. More than 15,000 people have visited these hatcheries and learned about the techniques being used to protect them.
Fehmida has also helped tag more than 7,000 marine turtles in order to study their migratory route and nesting behaviour. She helped fix satellite transmitters to two green turtles for the first time in Pakistan and monitored their journey along the coast.
In recognition of her outstanding conservation work, the President of Pakistan awarded Fehmida the Pride of Performance in 2007—the country’s highest civil award. She also has the honour of being the first Pakistani to hold a PhD in Marine Turtles.
Fehmida’s project on turtle conservation has won recognition worldwide and attracted considerable media attention at the local, regional and international level. Her personal devotion to nature conservation is instrumental to the success of her projects.
Fehmida has written more than 35 research papers and articles published in scientific journals and magazines of international repute, and has participated in numerous conferences around the world. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Indian Ocean - South East Asian Conservation of Marine Turtles and their Habitats Memorandum of Understanding.
Fehmida says her inspiration comes from the perseverance shown by the female turtle as she travels hundreds of kilometres to lay her eggs:
“She digs a hole for the eggs which is a painstaking process. During the egg laying tears start flowing from her eyes, but no one sees her pain and agony. After laying the eggs, she buries them and goes back to sea without disturbing any other creature, and yet people feel pleasure in harming them. Turtles are innocent creatures and we should make efforts to protect them.”
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