P. Girish, a resident of Malkajgiri in Hyderbad, noticed an unusual animal on the roadside grass while on his way home. It was a star shelled tortoise. Girish brought the animal home and kept it safe for two days before handing it over to zoo officials on Sunday.
P. Girish recalls, “On Friday at 7 a.m, I found the star tortoise near the roadside in the grass. It was so beautiful with design of stars on the shell. I have never seen such a tortoise before. I took it home and kept it for two days. People from my colony visited my home to see the tortoise.”
On Sunday, girish handed the animal to the Nehru zoo curator.
The Nehru zoo assistant director (veterinary) Dr MA Hakeem said that the tortoise was most probably 8 years old after his initial check up.
“The tortoise weighs around 1.75 kg, 16 inches long and has a height of 6.5 inches. It is about 8 years old. The animal is very healthy and energetic and can walk faster than all types of tortoise.”
According to the zoo director MA Waheed the star tortoise are land animals and one of the most rarest species of tortoise in the world.
“They are land-dwelling, feed on succulents and plant material and are found in semi-arid zones in the south and north-western parts of the country. The star-shelled land tortoise which is protected under Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act, is fast becoming an endangered species because of illegal trade,” he added.
He also said that while most tortoise have a life span of 150-200 years, this particular species can live up to 50-60 years.
The zoo now plans to place the tortoise back in the wild after ascertaining its place of origin through its DNA sample. The tortoise would be rehabilitated in the wild in Atmakur of Kurnool district.
“Assistance of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology would be sought to establish the place of origin of the rescued animal. Once it has sufficiently recouped, the animals will be electronically tagged and rehabilitated into the wild. We are also planning to breed them in the zoo as suggested by the Central Zoo Authority of India,” the curator said.
The star tortoise were smuggled in large quantities from India to other South east Asian countires till 2008 for their meat and for illegal pet trade. But after stricter punishments and more awareness about the species, the trade has decreased.
“That business has been curbed somewhat due to awareness that possessing, harming or killing any wild animal is a non-bailable offence,” Waheed observed.
With the new guest the zoo’s own population of the species has gone up to 20.
Article reference: ibnlive