India: Forest officials have nabbed five persons while tying to allegedly sell five Indian Star Tortoises (Geochelone elegans) which were smuggled to the state from Karnataka for illegal sale. The forest flying squad from Kozhikode nabbed the accused at the Thondayad junction and took a Maruti Swift car and a two wheeler involved in the smuggling.
The seizure was made by a ten member squad of officials headed by P Dhanesh Kumar, Divisional Forest Officer, Flying Squad, Kozhikode.
Dhanesh Kumar said that efforts are on to trace the origin of Indian Star Tortoises in Karnataka. He said that that as per the statement of the accused they were planning to sell tortoises for Rs Two lakh each to a buyer hailing from Kasaragod.
"We are trying to trace the source of tortoises in Karnataka and those engaged in possible illegal smuggling of the tortoises to foreign countrues," he added.
The acccused have been identified as Tilak Nanda alias Prashanth, hailing from Bajathur in Karnataka, Arun P S, hailing from Paravur, Shajir C H, hailing from Thalassery, Nandeesh of Chikkabansuvadi, Bengaluru and Shibi N P of Kottooli in Kozhikode.
Indian Star Tortoises are heavily exploited for the illegal pet trade. The reptiles which get its name from the star-like figures on their shells, is in high demand due to the superstition that posessing it will bring good luck. The Indian Star Toiroises are listed in Schedule IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and posession of it can attract an imprisonment of up to three years.
The accused along with the seized tortoises were handed over to the Thamarassery forest range office for further investigation and legal action.
(Source: The Times of India)