WWF, UNEP to support airport officials to prevent smuggling

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The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is providing officials at Chennai airports with capacity-building tools to prevent wildlife trafficking.

TRAFFIC, an arm of WWF, has conducted a recent study in which it found that a high incidence of wildlife trafficking through airports in Tamil Nadu, with special focus on Chennai International airport.

According to the officials of TRAFFIC, the unprecedented increase in smuggling of wildlife products was due to the growth in the aviation sector. Several rare species are moved through the airports to global destinations.

The study by the UN agencies also revealed that India is among the top 10 countries in the world whose airline sector is used for smuggling of wildlife products.

Black Pond turtle and Star tortoise are among the most smuggled in the country and this is being smuggled out mainly through Chennai airport.

The Tamil Nadu Wildlife department has in a raid conducted at Tiruvallur district of the state bordering Andhra Pradesh found private farms that were rearing star tortoises.

Each star tortoise fetch an amount of Rs 25,000 in the international market and recently a consignment of 3,000 star tortoises valued at around Rs 7.5 crore was seized from Chennai airport.

A senior Tamil Nadu Wildlife department official told IANS: “Most of these smuggled tortoises are collected from the Palamaner forests in Chitoor, Andhra Pradesh, and some police officials are supporting their smuggling from airports.”

With the WWF and UNEP providing software and capacity-building tools to law enforcement officers at Chennai airport, the chances of blocking the smuggling of these rare species of star tortoises and black pond tortoises can be executed.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised these tortoises as ‘vulnerable’.

A proposal to bring the star tortoise under the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act from the present Schedule IV has been suggested by the IUCN to the Central government.

The capacity-building tools provided by the WWF and UNEP will help the law enforcement agencies at Chennai and other vulnerable airports in Tamil Nadu to help prevent the smuggling of wildlife.

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