Thursday, January 25, 2018

Delhi: Cops uncover exotic tortoise being smuggled abroad

Tight security for Republic Day and Bihar's liquor ban proved to be a boon for about 500 vulnerable tortoises in Gaya.

Two poachers carrying a bag each of 244 and 230 Indian star tortoises, which are on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, were arrested from the local railway station and a hotel called Orbit this month.

This was while they were to be flown to Bangkok - the international destination for all such trafficked reptiles - through the Bodh Gaya Airport to go into the exotic and illegal pet trade.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama is residing in the ancient holy city these days to deliver sermons at the Kalachakra Maidan and thousands of devotees from the US, Europe and Southeast Asia have gathered there to listen to him.

The police suspect that the tortoises were to be handed over to agents from there for further sale in different parts of the world and especially Bangkok. Even a Traffic report in 2014 pointed out that Varanasi and Gaya have emerged as major transit points for trafficking of freshwater turtles and tortoises with fake religious tourists often being the culprits. "One of these men, a native of Bihar, Rameez Khan, was caught on the AC coach of Kolkata-Jodhpur Express. We were already on alert in view of the approaching Republic Day," said Gaya Government Railway Police (GRP) chief Parshuram Singh. "Further, our men had noticed that Khan was dragging his bag with a lot of effort and initially thought that it may be a liquor consignment. Later, we were surprised to see so many turtles in it, total 244, and hence it was so heavy." The other poacher, Jaishankar, was apprehended four days later from a hotel on Station Road, Gaya. SSP Gaya, Garima Mallick, said, "We are still interrogating them to find out who are their local and international partners in this crime."
25/01/18 Baishali Adak/India Today