293 endangered star tortoises rescued in Navi Mumbai, two smugglers held
The Mumbai Unit of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has arrested two persons from Navi Mumbai after they were found carrying 293 star tortoises in their bags on Saturday.
Acting on a tip-off, a joint team of DRI officials, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and Forest Department’s Anti-poaching Unit arrested Kondalah Lingaraju (27) and Srikanth Lingaraju (20) after they arrived in Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
The duo hails from Andhra Pradesh and arrived in the city via a bus from Pune. During a search, officials found the tortoises concealed in cotton clothes inside their backpacks.
The accused were supposed to deliver the tortoises to a man in Mumbai, who would then smuggle them to South East Asia where they fetch a higher value. The consignment is believed to be worth about Rs 1.5 crore.
The person who was supposed to collect the consignment is currently absconding. The duo, meanwhile, has been booked under sections 9, 39, 48 (A) and 51 of Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Star tortoises are an endangered species listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List and protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
Indian star tortoises are trafficked and smuggled as a part of the exotic pet trade and are highly priced in both international and domestic markets. Each tortoise can fetch anywhere between Rs 30,000-50,000 in South East Asia, where they are considered ‘lucky’.
Back in September, a woman hailing from Andhra Pradesh was arrested at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) after she was found in possession of 523 star tortoises.
The 42-year-old was travelling with two children to avoid suspicion but was intercepted based on a tip-off.