Smuggled tortoises being brought back to India, will be radio-tagged | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Smuggled tortoises being brought back to India, will be radio-tagged

New Delhi | By
Nov 27, 2018 11:54 AM IST

The Indian Star Tortoise is one of the most trafficked tortoise species in the world owing to the unique star-like radiating pattern on the shell. They are poached extensively for their meat and use of their body parts in traditional medicine as well as exotic pets.

At least 50 Indian Star Tortoises, which were smuggled out of India to Singapore, are being brought back to the country with the help of governments of both the countries and wildlife NGOs. They would be radiotagged by a Delhi-based NGO, before being released into the wild in Karnataka.

Indian Star Tortoise is one of the most trafficked tortoise species owing to the unique star­like radiating pattern on shell.(HT Photo)
Indian Star Tortoise is one of the most trafficked tortoise species owing to the unique star­like radiating pattern on shell.(HT Photo)

The Indian Star Tortoise is one of the most trafficked tortoise species in the world owing to the unique star-like radiating pattern on the shell. They are poached extensively for their meat and use of their body parts in traditional medicine as well as exotic pets.

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“The tortoises were confiscated by the Singapore authorities. With cooperation from the Indian and Singapore governments, they are being repatriated to India and returned to their natural habitat in the forests of Karnataka,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS, a Delhi-based NGO.

This is, however, not the first time that animals smuggled out of India are being repatriated. While Indian Star Tortoises have been brought back to India from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong in the past as well. Around 128 Radiated Tortoise and seven Angonoka Tortoises were repatriated to Madagascar from Mumbai by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in April 2016.

It is not known when and how these tortoises were smuggled out of India but investigations have revealed that they came from Karnataka. A team of forest officials and members of the Delhi-based NGO went to Singapore to inspect the tortoises, where they were being kept at a rescue centre run by a Singapore-based NGO, ACRES.

The tortoises were transported in specially designed boxes for the journey and upon arrival in India, received by a team from Wildlife SOS. The airlines, in which they travelled from Singapore to India, did not charge for the transport. “Once the tortoises have completed their quarantine period of three months, we would radio-tag them and monitor these animals for survival,” said Wasim Akram, manager, special projects, Wildlife SOS.

Indian star tortoise is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and was tagged as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2016. Their numbers are declining. They are also listed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), which regulates international trade of wildlife.

“The odds never favoured us but our perseverance, together with support from Wildlife SOS, paved the way for getting these animals repatriated,” Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of ACRES, said.

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