Two persons were arrested at Kolkata airport on Tuesday for trying to smuggle 21 star-shelled tortoises to Chennai. Star tortoise is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to which India is a signatory. It is also a contra banned trade item under the Wild Life Protection Act,1972.
Ornamental fishes were also found in their possession. The police on patrol grew suspicious when they saw two men walking towards the cargo complex with a sack around 4am. When the men fumbled on being questioned, the police took them to the NSCBI Airport police station. On opening the sack, the cops found plastic bags containing goldfish in water. Below them were some white packets. On opening them, 21 star tortoises tumbled out to be six female that are larger in size and 15 male.
The two men-Jadavpur resident Tapas Basak and Ekbalpore resident Md Irfan-were then taken into custody.
On interrogation, accused Tapas Basak and Md Irfan said the tortoises were to be shipped via cargo on board a SpiceJet flight to Chennai.
Dead or alive, Indian star tortoises command premium prices in international market. The beautiful coloration with attractive patterns on its hard shell, small size, non-aquatic habit, easy-to-feed and their docile nature makes star tortoises a sought after pet. Its high sale value in South-East Asian markets also makes it a top-traded species.
Last year, an attempt to smuggle 300 star tortoises out of the country to Kuala Lumpur was foiled. Police had arrested a youth-Abu Taher-and seized the catch. An nationwide alert following the seizure of 295 star tortoises from Tiruchirapalli airport two months ago had facilitated the arrest then.