BENGALURU: The Tamil Nadu Forest Department is assisting the Bengaluru city police teams in unearthing a racket involved in the smuggling of star tortoises and arresting poachers. The Kalasipalya police late on Monday night rescued 401 star tortoises that were found dumped in two bags at a bus station. Hamad Meera (51) alias Wahab Hout, a resident of Tamil Nadu, was arrested. During the interrogation, he revealed that his handler was Kumar, whose mobile phone was traced to Tami Nadu.
This is the second seizure of star tortoises in the city in three days. On Saturday too, the police had found two bags with tortoises at the KR Market bus stand. The Karnataka Forest Department officials suspect that the two cases could be linked as the modus operandi seems to be the same.
Sources said, “Those smuggling tortoises book tickets at the last minute and board buses in a hurry. They carry worn out bags so as not to draw attention. As such incidents have recurred, tour operators have become alert and check such passengers. On Saturday too, it was a tour operator who asked the passenger to open the bags. Sometimes passengers escape, but this time one was nabbed.”
Forest officials, who have taken the tortoises to Bannerghatta Rescue Centre for treatment and rehabilitation, said that if they had not been rescued immediately, nearly half of them would have died because of the way they were stacked. Of the 401 tortoises, 380 have survived.
“Poachers carry a large number of animals in small containers, endangering the lives of these creatures. Poachers work with the assumption that only 50 per cent of animals survive. Since there is a price for dead wildlife too, there is very little to lose for them,” they said.