CHENNAI: Sleuths of the customs department detained a 28-year-old man while attempting to sneak away 88 black pond turtles to Bangkok on Friday night.
The accused identified as Zakir Hussain (28), a native of Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram, was handed over to the forest officials, who booked him under the Wildlife Act. Sources said these protected species are found predominantly in Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
The CISF personnel while screening Hussain’s baggage noticed some movement inside his suitcase. They made Hussain open the bag and found the turtles stashed underneath clothes. Hussain along with the turtles was handed over to the customs officials, who informed the forest officials about the seizure. A team led by forest officer S David Raj, examined the turtles.
Hussain, who runs a mobile shop in Paramakudi, claimed that he was given the suitcase on the airport premises by a man, who paid him `10,000 to deliver it to Bangkok. Hussain’s passport examination revealed that this was his second trip abroad. Earlier, he had visited Singapore on a tourist visa.
Though Hussain claimed innocence, the forest officials suspected he was part of a larger smuggling racket operating out of North India. Sources said that the seized turtles would be kept in a unit at Velachery, before being handed over to the children’s park in Guindy. A veterinary doctor also examined the turtles.
Hussain was booked under provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, since turtles figure in Schedule-I as endangered species. Selling and transporting such animals is illegal. The accused was produced before a court in the city, which remanded him in custody.