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Man remanded for smuggling star tortoises

Man remanded for smuggling star tortoises

Abdul Alim of Ilayankudi in Sivaganga district, who tried to smuggle star tortoises from Madurai International Airport on Sunday night, was remanded in judicial custody till October 12.

Abdul was detained by Customs officials at the airport after a check on his cabin baggage revealed that he was illegally taking 247 star tortoises to Kuala Lumpur via a flight to Sri Lanka from the city. The consignment was estimated to be worth over Rs. 60 lakh.

The species were extremely popular among overseas exotic pet traders and many people in Southeast Asian countries preferred to have them as pets, officials said.

The accused and the rescued tortoises were handed over to the Forest Department authorities by the Customs.

The star tortoises are primarily found in dry and deciduous forests and can survive for up to three days without food or water while being transported. In Madurai, they can be spotted in the forest areas in Vikramangalam and Sirumalai. The forest authorities said that this was probably one of the first instances of star tortoises being smuggled and seized at Madurai airport.

District Forest Officer Nihar Ranjan said that the accused had confessed to have procured the tortoises from dealers in Chennai who had sourced them from Bengaluru and Tirupati. “Primary investigations revealed that he has already been involved in smuggling Ketamine (a proscribed drug) and other banned substances to other countries. He seems to be a carrier for a larger network involved in exotic pet trade and we will carry out further investigations,” he said.

“The tortoises will either be released in dry forest areas in the district or will be kept in a protected environment or handed over to zoos. All of them are between three to nine months old,” Mr. Ranjan added.

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