Bengaluru: The officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (Bengaluru Zonal Office) have arrested the mastermind of a racket involved in the smuggling of endangered wild life and seized 1,012 tortoises of different species. In the international market they are said to be worth around $ 6,15,000 (more than Rs 4 crore).
Based on a specific intelligence input that some unknown persons were smuggling endangered wild life through Chennai Air cargo, the officials had maintained intense surveillance on the vehicles going towards Chennai on Saturday and Sunday.
The team intercepted two vehicles at Attibele Toll on the city outskirts. During the search, it was found that one of the cars was carrying 1,012 live turtles/tortoises of different species, DRI officials stated.
“The seized tortoises included red eared slider, which is one of the 100 most invasive species listed by International Union for Conservation of Nature. In all, there were 852 Indian Star Tortoise, 76 Tricarinate hill turtle, 46 Peter (Melanchelys tricarinata Female), 11 red-eared Slider and 27 Indian tent turtle. These turtles were separately packed in seven travel bags,” an official said.
Investigations revealed that the mastermind of the entire operation is a pet and aqua shop owner in Bengaluru. During preliminary investigation, he admitted that he, in collaboration with some other unknown persons, used to illegally procure these endangered live species from various natural habitat located at Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka and smuggled them to countries like Hong Kong through Chennal Air Cargo.
As per his admission, he is into smuggling of these endangered species for the past one year. He has been arrested and further investigations are underway, the officials said.
“At the time of seizure, the star tortoises were found to have been transported in cramped conditions over long distances. A large number of them were found to be juveniles,” the officials said.
After being informed about the seizure, the Karnataka Forest Department has taken possession of the tortoises for rehabilitation. The live tortoises will receive adequate veterinary care and be suitably rehabilitated before they can be considered fit for release into their natural habitat.
The mastermind had earlier smuggled live species worth more than Rs 1 crore out of India, the officials added.