Of the 445 star tortoises seized from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport the other day, 88 are under observation in the Thiruvananthapuram zoo, after being brought in a very critical condition.
The court had ordered to release all the tortoises into Chinnar Forest. But, when Dr Jacob Alexander, Veterinarian, Department of Museums and Zoos, examined them on Tuesday, many were not moving. Five tortoises were dead.
The tortoises were stacked tight in a trolley bag. The zoo doctor said that this proved suffocating to them. “Some of them had their shells broken; most were not opening their eyes; none were drinking water or having food,” said Dr Alexander. There was a burning sensation in his hands when he stroked their shells. The doctor surmised that the smugglers had sprinkled some sedatives to keep them quiet.
The zoo vet sorted the tortoises and handed over the healthier ones to Chinnar Forest officials. Chinnar Forest Officer Sibin N T said that they are being monitored by field watchers.
A veterinarian surgeon in the area has been assigned to observe them closely. Once the officials are sure that they have acclimatised to their habitat, they will be released into the wild in batches of 50, said the officer.
Star tortoises are usually found in dry, deciduous forests.
The tortoises in the zoo are showing definite signs of revival, according to Dr Alexander. He said that they are responding to the medication, glucose, food and water administered to them. Apart from electrolytes, they are being given antibiotics as they are infected by parasite insects. Over 50 of them have now become very active, said the doctor.