VIJAYAWADA: Sleuths of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized 500 live Indian star tortoises from a passenger who was trying to smuggle them from Kadiri in Anantapur district to Ahmedabad, at Vijayawada Railway station on Monday night. The person carrying the tortoises was arrested.
Based on information that Indian star tortoises - a vulnerable and endangered species mentioned in the Schedule IV to the Wildlife Protection Act - 1972 - were being illegally smuggled out of India, DRI sleuths intercepted the passenger who was travelling in Navjeevan Express at Vijayawada railway station.
After searching his luggage, the DRI officials found that the accused was carrying Indian star tortoises covered with clothes and other items in the bags. Upon questioning, he admitted that he had collected tortoises of different sizes from a person in Kadiri and was asked to take the same to Ahmedabad and hand it over to some person for smuggling them out of the country.
“The forest officials, who also participated in the operation, confirmed that the tortoises (Geochelone Elegans) were being transported to other countries,” said a DRI official.Meanwhile, the seized tortoises were handed over to the Vijayawada Forest Range Officer for safe custody. “Star tortoises are not allowed to be exported as they are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. Further investigation is in progress,” the DRI official said.
With the smuggling of star tortoises to foreign countries coming down due to increased vigil at airports, smugglers have found a new route - the sea. It is reportedly believed that the Indian Star Tortoises are being exported to foreign countries via Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as they have a huge demand in the international market.
The Indian star tortoises, declared ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), protected under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and listed in Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, are prohibited for export under the Foreign Trade Policy and the same are liable for confiscation under the Customs Act, 1962.The person involved in the illegal transport of Indian tortoises for export out of India has been arrested under the Customs Act, 1962.
Hidden among clothes in bags
After searching his luggage, the DRI officials found that the accused was carrying Indian Star Tortoises covered with clothes and other items in the bags. Upon questioning, he admitted that he had collected tortoises of different sizes from a person in Kadiri and was asked to take the same to Ahmedabad and hand it over to some person for smuggling them out of the country.