BJP leader’s son held with exotic turtle in Uttarakhand, officials sniff smuggling nexus
A BJP leader’s son and another man, arrested for carrying turtles, have links with smugglers dealing with aquarium species and small wild animals in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, forest officials saiddehradun Updated: Nov 20, 2017 20:12 IST
A BJP leader’s son and another man, arrested for carrying turtles, have links with smugglers dealing with aquarium species and small wild animals in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, forest officials said.
Mohit Sharma (30), son of mandal vice-president in Rekha Sharma Haridwar, was arrested on November 18 with an exotic turtle species -- Red Eared Slider. Commonly known as Singapore turtle, its sale is banned in the United Stated under the 1975 regulation of the Food and Drug Administration owing to health impacts caused by consumption of its eggs.
The other accused, Victor (50), who was arrested for carrying two tent turtles, was handed over to his family because of his illness, but Mohit is under judicial custody, officials said.
After arresting the two, forest officials searched a godown where they found another tent turtle.
“Preliminary investigation shows Mohit and Victor used to trade in turtles and aquarium species. They have also links in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi from where these species are smuggled here and probably sold to people,” Akash Verma, Haridwar divisional forest officer (DFO), told Hindustan Times.
Neither Rekha nor BJP state president Ajay Bhatt could be contacted for their comments despite repeated attempts.
Uttarakhand is turning into a hotspot for turtle trade. According to forest department reports, nearly 200 turtles were seized in 2014, about 120 in 2015 and 100 in 2016. In 2015, turtles were also found from people in Rajaji Tiger Reserve.
Experts say turtles are caught from places along rivers and smuggled. The species are kept in homes as there is a belief that they bring prosperity.
Activists have expressed concern over trade in aquarium species. “Turtle trade isn’t restricted to winters. But, yes its catch could be seasonal. Turtles are believed to bring prosperity and longevity, and that’s why its demand is increasing,” said Abhishekh Kumar who works with TRAFFIC India.
Other activists said there should be better patrolling in forest divisions along the Ganga, Yamuna and their tributaries to check the trade.
First Published: Nov 20, 2017 20:12 IST