In one of the largest such seizures of endangered species,the Border Security Force has seized 952 star tortoises,worth Rs 3.19 crore in the international market,when they were being smuggled into Bangladesh.
As per the BSF,a patrolling party seized the reptiles from near Tentulberia Border Outpost ( BoP) in West Bengals North-24 Parganas on Sunday after intercepting two smugglers who were walking towards the Bangladesh border with the consignment packed in gunny bags.
Dinesh Murmu,Commandant,BSF 40 battalion,said,We had launched a special operation after receiving a tip off that some rare wildlife species were being smuggled. On seeing the patrol party,the smugglers dropped the bags and crossed over to the other side of the border fence.
The BSF later contacted the state forest department authorities,who identified the reptiles as Indian star tortoise,Murmu added.
The Indian star tortoise,Geochelone Elegans,is protected under the IVth Schedule of the Wildlife Protection Act-1972,which bans its possession and trade. It is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The BSF later handed over the reptiles to the DFO North-24 Paraganas,who took it to the wildlife rescue centre and transit facility at Salt Lake in Kolkata.
As per the forest department,the seized reptiles are 7-days-old to 7 years-old and weigh between 50 gm and 1.5 kg approximately.
This is the largest seizure of this rare wildlife species in recent times, said Kalyan Das,Conservator of Forests (Wildlife-headquarters). The star tortoise is quite attractive,growing up to around 30cm across the carapace. It faces a number of threats as it is traded for food,used in traditional medicine and reared
as pet in Asia and North America.