Forest department with the help of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has begun a major investigation into turtle trade after the Dadar Railway Protection Force (RPF) made a seizure of 80 turtles.
It was on October 1 that, on duty RPF personnel CG Memane and Pankaj Kalke during their routine check of the Pushpak train coming in from Uttar Pradesh at Dadar’s platform number 6 at around 7-55pm noticed an unclaimed black travel bag in the ladies coach. On close inspection the duo realised that there was some movement inside the bag and on opening it they found turtles, which were handed over to the Mumbai range forest department.
Range Forest Officer (RFO) SS Kank said that out of the 80 turtles handed to them only 75 were alive and by the time they brought conducted medical examination only 65 survived. « We discussed the case with M Marankos, Regional Deputy Director WCCB, and along with his help we have begun investigations. We will be writing to the RPF for CCTV grabs as the turtle trade has become a major issue and even WCCB is looking out for people behind this trade, » said Kank.
Meanwhile, Pawan Sharma of Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW), which is involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of urban wildlife that helped the forest department to take care of the turtles initially, said that there were actually two species. « Earlier it was thought that all the turtles belonged to Indian tent variety, but we also found that there were Indian roofed turtles as well. They were in extremely stressed condition as they had been dehydrated due to the long travel and were not kept in an hygienic manner, » said Sharma adding that they first segregated the active and weak turtles and as per their condition gradually gave them water and food.
Sharma also said that there was a need for a major awareness series amongst people to encourage them not to keep turtles and tortoises as pets and at the same time the pet trade needs to be controlled.
The turtles after medical examination have been sent to Wildlife Conservation and Animal Welfare Association (WCAWA) centre at Dahanu, which is a rehabilitation centre for turtles.