India moves to bring trafficked tortoises back from Singapore

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New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) The Karnataka government has written to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) to help it bring back 97 endangered Indian star tortoises, which were trafficked to Singapore over an year back.

The state’s Forest Department has requested for CITES’ approval to repatriate the tortoises, as failing to do so could result in their culling, as per Singapore’s law.

According to Anur Reddy, Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka, while the formalities between the Singapore and Indian governments have been completed, the permission from the CITES was essential and would act as the final approval.

“It would take another two to three weeks to obtain the permission letter and after that we can get the turtles back in Karnataka where those will be rehabilitated in their natural habitat,” Reddy told IANS.

He added that the tortoises would be bought back in two batches. So far, 85 of the trafficked tortoises have been found fit and infection free, while 12 others were showing dullness.

Animal welfare organisation Wildlife SOS and Karnataka State Forest Department, with the help of Singapore-based Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), have taken the initiative to bring the tortoises back to Karnataka.

Once back, the tortoises will be rehabilitated in their natural habitat in Ramdurga Valley in Karnataka’s Koppal with the help of Wildlife SOS.

According to the Wildlife SOS, over 105 Indian Star tortoises were illegally smuggled into Singapore from Karnataka. Of them, 97 were found fit to travel back.

“Indian star tortoise is a rare and endangered species of land tortoise that is often poached in the wild and sold internationally for pet trade or for use as ingredients in traditional Chinese medicines,” said Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.

Indian star tortoise is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act and also listed under Appendix-II of CITES that regulates international trade of wildlife.

–IANS

kd/nir/vt

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