Madurai, Sept. 29 (ANI): Custom officials detained a man for trying to smuggle endangered star tortoises worth Rs. 70 lakhs out of the country here yesterday.
Abdul Haleem was detained at the Madurai International Airport after customs officials caught him carrying 247 star tortoises in cabin baggage.
The case was then transferred to the state forest department.
“This transporter, he is not the real accused; real dealers are behind him. He seems to be a transporter, that is a conduit between the two dealers i.e. the collection dealer at India and the distribution dealer at Kuala Lumpur. So for this transport, he has confessed to have got around rupees five lakhs from the dealer,” said District Forest Officer (DFO) Madurai, Nihar Ranjan.
Ranjan said the tortoises were collected from various places across south India. He added that investigation was on to nail the real dealers.
The endangered tortoises are eaten in parts of Southeast Asia.
They are also popular as pets and the consignment could be worth up to USD 15,000 on the black market.
Star tortoises are protected under Indian wildlife laws, which make it an offence to trade or transport them illegally. Anyone found guilty can be jailed for up to three years or fined or both. (ANI)