UP families travelling with kids caught smuggling endangered turtles to Bengal
In a first, families travelling with women and children from Uttar Pradesh were caught red-handed in West Bengal on Saturday while smuggling around 650 endangered Indian soft-shell turtles.
The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change and the West Bengal forest department personnel arrested 14 men and eight women, making it the biggest arrest in recent history. There were several children in the group that came to Bengal in the Purvanchal Express, posing as common travellers to evade suspicion. The train travels between Gorakhpur and Kolkata.
“Some of the men were travelling with their wives; some had their mothers while a man was travelling with his sister-in-law. This is a completely new modus operandi adopted by carriers to evade detection,” said an officer from the raiding team who did not want to be named. “The families said they were to sell the turtles, which are considered a delicacy in parts of Bengal and Bangladesh, at Rs 300 a kilo,” the officer added.
Agni Mitra, deputy director, WCCB (eastern region), said, “The arrests were made outside the Naihati station in North 24 Parganas district. The officers seized 645 live and 12 dead turtles. These were packed in travel bags. The turtles were taken to a rescue centre.”
This was this year’s second big success for Operation Turtshield, a new Central programme to protect endangered turtles. On January 12, the officers seized 983 Indian flap-shell turtles and two Indian peacock soft-shell turtles from a market at Bongaon in North-24 Parganas. The latter figures in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as ‘threatened species’.
In January 2019, more than 1,700 Indian flap-shell turtles were seized in back to back raids in Bengal while being smuggled from Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. These, too, were seized in North-24 Parganas.