52 endangered turtles, 13 parakeets rescued in UP

Agra, March 16 (IANS) A total of 52 endangered turtles and 13 parakeets have been rescued from poachers and smugglers in a drive launched by the Uttar Pradesh forest department with the support of NGO Wildlife SOS.

Under the drive, launched to control activities of poachers and wildlife smugglers operating in the Agra region, in the last two days, authorities have managed to rescue endangered turtles and parakeets from different areas.

The 13 rose-ringed parakeets were seized from a local market near the S.N. Medical College in Agra city. The birds were later released into their natural habitat.

The matter came to light when a member of the Wildlife SOS team came across a juvenile boy selling over a dozen rose-ringed parakeets near S.N. Medical College in Agra. The birds were crammed into tiny cages and being sold as house pets in the market.

The Wildlife SOS rescue team notified the forest department authorities, following which a joint four-member team was dispatched to the scene. The juvenile was taken into police custody.

Baiju Raj MV, director, Conservation Projects, Wildlife SOS, said: “One of our team members saw the birds being sold in the market and immediately alerted us. We contacted the forest department and they dispatched two of their officials to assist our rescue team. Though the birds were kept in cramped and uncomfortable cages, they did not sustain any physical injuries.”

Rajesh Kumar, the Range Forest Officer said: “We took custody of the parakeets and released them back into their natural habitat, where they can live a free and healthy life.”

Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said: “Despite being protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, rose-ringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri) are common victims of illegal bird trade due to their high demand in the Indian market.”

A day ago, the team members rescued 52 endangered turtles trapped in a 20-feet net in the Soor Sarovar lake on the Agra-Delhi national highway. A total of 42 turtles were found dead and 12 were in grave condition when rescued by Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh forest department.

The team identified four different species of turtles — the Spotted Black turtle, Indian Soft shell turtle, Indian Flap shell turtle and Indian tent turtle, all of which are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

The 12 rescued turtles were kept under observation and once deemed fit, were released back into the lake in the presence of the forest department officials.

Anil Patel, the divisional forest officer said: “Recently, there have been increasing cases of wildlife poaching in the district. We are putting in our best efforts to track down the poachers who were trying to illegally capture these turtles from their natural habitat.”

Baiju Raj MV, director, Conservation Projects, Wildlife SOS, said: “We identified four different turtle species, all of which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Turtles are mainly poached for their meat and their shells are believed to have traditional healing and medicinal properties.”

Seshamani, of Wildlife SOS, said: “Illegal trade of endangered turtle species continues to be prevalent in India on account of various superstitious myths and beliefs attributed to them.

“Awareness regarding the illegality of the offence and the abominable treatment of these animals is incredibly important to curb cruelty and poaching of wildlife.”

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