A group of smugglers trying to make away with 1012 exotic turtles and tortoises, valued at about Rs 4 crore in the international market were caught right on time by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials last week in Bangalore. They were trying to make their way across the state border over to Chennai and from there to smuggle these reptiles to Hong Kong and China, to be used as “good luck charms” and as delicacies in restaurants.
The vehicles of the offenders were intercepted by a team of DRI sleuths at Attibele toll gate located on the outskirts of Bengaluru One person was arrested and the officials are on the trail of his associate(s).
Read More: Turtle Nesting Sites Facing the Heat
The turtles were packed up in seven tightly bound travel bags and were found kept in two cars bound for Chennai. Of the 1012 animals, there were,
852 Indian Star Tortoise,
76 Tricarinate hill turtle,
11 red-eared Slider and
27 Indian tent turtles.
Exotic turtles and tortoises fall under endangered species category and their illegal capture and transport attract a minimum prison term of seven years under Customs Act and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
A Bengaluru-based pet shop owner has been identified as the mastermind of the racket and was taken into custody on Sunday, the 8th of October. The arrested man has given more information about his accomplices in the city and the DRI team has launched a hunt for them.
Trade Master plan
On interrogation, DRI officials got to know that he operated through his associates in Bengaluru since 2016. They would procure animals captured from forest areas in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, through their agents. The animals would then be transported to Chennai by road and from there would be sent by cargo flight to China.
It is suspected that in the past few months the gang has managed to get away with turtles worth at least one crore, smuggled to China.
The individual price of these animals depends on the size and purpose of procurement for each of these species.
The state forest department has been informed about the seizure and the rescued animals would be handed over to them. However, owing to the nature in which the turtles were handled and held captive in hostile conditions, the forest department would have to give veterinary care to them for a couple of days before they are released into the wild or rehabilitated in any government animal centre.