After a year-and-half-long investigation by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, 12 people involved in smuggling turtles to Malaysia from Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata were arrested and remanded in judicial custody on Wednesday.
HT had reported on April 24, 2015, that the air intelligence unit (AIU) of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai intercepted two passengers bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with 161 live specimens of Spotted Black Terrapin turtles, a species listed in schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The case was taken over by the WCCB, western region, Navi Mumbai.
Initially, the two accused carriers were arrested and identified as Thimmarayappa Jnanamurthy and Ramaswamy Shanmugam from Bangalore. During the course of investigation, Shivakumar and Brabas of Balegowdanahalle, Chikkaballapur district, Karnataka were also arrested.
“After interrogating the two, we got leads to track down the two masterminds behind the operation. One was identified as Saravanan, based out of Chennai and the other Shasikapoor of Balegowdanahalle,” said M Maranko, regional deputy director, WCCB western region. “We traced them with the help of regional teams and arrested them over the past week, airlifted them to Mumbai and presented them in court.”
Maranko said the turtles were transported from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. “While we were tracking the masterminds of the illegal trade, a separate team from Delhi and Mumbai were deployed for Unnao,” he said. He added that six people, led by Mohammad Ibrahim, were involved in collecting and packing the turtles. They were all arrested a few months ago.
WCCB was supported by their headquarters in Delhi and the Karnataka forest department. “We successfully closed this case. However, there are many such illegal acts carried out through the internet,” said Maranko adding, “There is a need for more awareness about protected species.”