Watchful sleuths of Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Chennai Airport busted smuggling racket of star tortoise. They recovered 210 tortoises from a gang involved in smuggling star tortoise. The AIU carried out raid on specific information and detected case of smuggling of Indian star tortoises on Sunday night. The AIU official’s intercepted two passengers namely, Safur Ali, 33 and Mohamed Thamim Ansari, 27 from Anna Airport departure lounge on suspicion that they might be carrying contraband/prohibited wildlife animals. Both passengers are holders of Indian Passport, were travel bound to Bangkok by Thai Air Asia Flight FD154.
Both the passengers were detained along with their baggage for further inspection as their fidgety body language raised suspicion. During examination, sweet boxes were found along with other food items inside their two stroller suitcases. When opened, these sweet boxes were found stuffed with chocolates. Underneath of chocolate boxes, plastic boxes were found in which the tortoises were concealed. These plastic boxes were having holes to facilitate breathing for the tortoises. In these two boxes 130 and 80 tortoises were found respectively, totalling to 210 in all.
It may be noted that export of star tortoises is completely prohibited under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. These 210 star tortoises were seized under Customs Act, 1962 read with Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 and International Convention CITES. The seized tortoises were further handed over to Forest Officials for further necessary action.
One of the senior custom officer on the condition of anonymity said “The Indian star tortoise is the most traded tortoise species in the world. Every year, thousands of them are confiscated mostly at airports before they are smuggled out. The Chennai AIU and custom officials are keeping discreet eye on illegal smuggling activities of star tortoises and gold smuggling. Tamil Nadu is favorite destination to smuggle out star tortoise. Every time smugglers keep on changing their modus operandi, so do the customs officials have further enhanced their networking. We have implanted informers to know their movements and trap them timely”.
About Star Tortoise
The Indian star tortoises are in very good demand in foreign countries especially South East Asian. Star tortoise smuggling is linked to illicit pet trade and one specimen can fetch a good sum in the International market. These rare and endangered species of land tortoise and are often poached from the wild and sold internationally to be used as pets and also as ingredients of Chinese medicine.
Author: Sitaram Mewati
Award winning journalist