Uttarakhand authorities arrested a 19-year-old Vikasnagar resident who tried to sell a protected species of turtle on the e-commerce website OLX.com, indicating that illegal wildlife trade is picking up online.
Mohit Garg uploaded an advertisement for selling a bunch of Indian Roof turtles on OLX, police said. This is a crime because the animal is protected under the wildlife act. The forest department seized three turtles from him.
“I have directed concerned division officer to serve notice to the website. It’s the first incident in the state but to crack the whip on such activities, there should be a specialised agency,” Dhananjai Mohan, chief conservator of forest (CCF) wildlife and intelligence said. HT tried to contact the website but didn’t get an immediate response.
Garg tried to sell turtles under the alias, Bilal and said he had links in Delhi, where the demand of such animals is very high.
The turtles are collected from Uttarakhand as well as parts of Uttar Pradesh. Through classified websites these items are sold to customers and even pet shop owners, officers quoted Garg as saying.
“The significance of turtles is in Feng Shui because of which people want to buy them. But, the online purchase and selling is a new trend in animal part smuggling especially in Utarakhand,” said wildlife expert Abhishekh Kumar.
Department figures say over 250 turtles were seized since 2011. Besides turtles, experts said reptiles such as red sand boa, ball python and even pangolin scales are traded online. Indian parrots too record high demand.
“The business of turtles, other reptiles and parrots of our country is a global business. Who will crack the whip on such traders? Is it the cyber crime department of police or some other IT department?” Sudhankar Sharma, an expert said.
Authorities are concerned that such advertisements are uploaded on websites without filter. “We are seeking legal aid to know our powers in such situations and whether there could be a clause to filter advertisements before final display on the page,” Man Singh divisional forest officer (DFO) Kalsi said.
Taking cue from this incident, the department has planned to sensitise pet shopkeepers in Dehradun, Haldwani and Haridwar. “We are planning to distribute informative material to pet shopkeepers that will sensitise them about species that are illegal to be traded,” Mohan added.