PATNA: Of late, trains passing through Bihar from other parts of the country towards Kolkata and north-eastern states have become a conduit for those smuggling tortoise to neighbouring countries like China, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Tortoises of all species have been declared endangered reptiles under the Wildlife Protection Act of India.
But they are sold illegally by local agents active in various hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states and are smuggled on trains abroad.
Reliable sources say Indian tortoises fetch very high prices in the markets of China, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
For instance, it costs `1,000 to `1,500 to buy a cup of meat of Indian tortoises in China.
In the last 15 months, Patna rail police had seized around 1,000 pieces of tortoises alive from different Kolkata-bound trains at Patna junction and different stations.
Superintendent of Rail Police (SRP) of Patna range Sujeet Kumar said that 286 tortoises were seized in January 2018 at Patna junction, which were being taken to Kolkatta to smuggle into Bangladesh.
Sources say one piece of tortoise is purchased at `100 to `150 from hilly areas by tribal people and sold at `500 to `1,000 depending on its weight and colour of shells.
Kumar said the rail police regularly inspects luggage on trains passing through Patna routes. Official figures claim 134 tortoises were recovered on February 24 at Patna junction and 24 tortoises from Gaya station and four smugglers were arrested in 2018 from different trains.