The Tamil Nadu forest and wildlife department are on a high alert after several incidents of smuggling live star tortoises have been reported.
In a recent case, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of Tamil Nadu found that star tortoises were smuggled to Kolkata in a train where they were confiscated and the arrested were found to be from Chennai.
According to sources in the Wildlife department of Tamil Nadu, these live tortoises are smuggled out to South East Asian countries and most of them are kept as pets in households.
The smugglers, according to the Bureau officials, were using Kolkata as a destination point from where they take the tortoises to the northeastern states and further to international destinations.
Even in Bangkok, a large volume of live star tortoises was seized and on questioning it was found that they emanated from Chennai. This led to a detailed investigation by the Wildlife and Forest department authorities and it was found that most of the star tortoises that were seized from other places of India had a Chennai connection.
The star tortoise is a protected species under Schedule IV of the WildLife Protection Act 1972. Generally, when people are caught with live star tortoises they are penalised and if it is repeated then they have to pay a hefty fine and have to undergo prison term also.
The price of these star tortoises varies from place to place. While star tortoises are available at prices ranging from Rs 1200 – to Rs 3000 in Mumbai open markets, in international markets like Bangkok the price shoots up by manifold.
Highly placed officials in the state wildlife department told IANS that there will be stringent checking at all four airports of Tamil Nadu to prevent any smuggling of these tortoises. The security check-up at railway stations has also been increased to prevent the smuggling of protected wildlife species.