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48 rare turtles seized from south Delhi

Police arrest two people under relevant sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, reports Avishek G Dastidar.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 00:37 IST

In the biggest haul of illegal animals this year, the wildlife department seized as many as 48 turtles of three endangered varieties from two South Delhi markets on Wednesday.

Two people have been arrested and sent to 14 days of judicial custody under relevant sections of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

“These turtles were of extremely rare variety declared endangered under Schedule 1 of the Act. This makes the offence very serious from the point of view of wildlife conservation,” said Vasudha Mehta, spokesperson of People for Animals, one of the NGOs that assisted the Wildlife Department in carrying out the raid.

Out of the 48 turtles, 34 were Indian Soft Shell Turtles, five were Spotted Black Terrapins and 9 were Indian Tent turtles. “These varieties are so endangered that their possession, trading and hunting, or even possessing any body parts attract an imprisonment of three to seven years or a fine of Rs 25000, or both,” said Wildlife Inspector R Meena, who conducted the raid.

In the morning, two members, each from NGOs People for Animals and Wildlife SOS, posed as customers and unearthed 37 turtles from the residence of Nirmal Majhi, allegedly a trader of turtle meat at the Govindpuri market.

“There was a three-foot water tank on the terrace of Nirmal’s house where the turtles were being kept. When our decoys asked him to show samples of his ‘merchandise’ he took them to the tank. Each turtle was huge weighing around 30 to 40 kilograms,” said Kartick Satyanarayan of Wildlife SOS.

Another accused, Basu, from Dakshinpuri was nabbed in the same fashion. Eleven turtles were unearthed from his premises. “He did put up resistance and tried to flee, but our enforcement officials caught him on time,” Meena told Hindustan Times.

“What was unfortunate was that the neighbours of both the accused were fully aware of their supposedly thriving business,” PFA’s Vasudha Mehta said adding that turtle meat were sold for a hefty Rs 25 a kilogram.

It turned out to be a big day for animal conservationists as in another raid the police recovered a Brown Fish Owl and around hundred other birds of rare varieties on Wednesday.

Raj Narayan was arrested from Shakkarpur area of east Delhi after police received a tip-off that he was to use two for a religious ritual at his residence. On the basis of Narayan's interrogation, the police raided a shop at a market in Central Delhi and recovered the birds.

Email:Avishek.dastidar@hindustantimes.com