500 live tortoises seized at Chennai airport
Chennai: Customs and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) officials seized 500 live tortoises at the Chennai airport on Thursday night. The tortoises were to be smuggled to Malaysia on a Thai Airways flight.
Deputy director of WCCB S R V Murthy said the consignment was booked from an export unit functioning at Ambattur and declared as crabs.
The live tortoises were packed in 56 cloth bags and were concealed under dead crabs.
When the consignment was scanned by the Customs authorities, they grew suspicious and checked one of the bags. It came to light that live tortoises were in the bag. They found star tortoises in other bags too. This tortoise species is being bred in captivity especially in places such as Kolathur and Red Hills. Places such as Royapuram, Washermenpet and Tondiarpet in Chennai are the hubs for the sale of star tortoises.
The seized tortoises will be released in the Guindy National Park. Further investigation in the case would be taken up by the bureau, Murthy added.
The value of the 500 tortoises is estimated to be around 50 lakh in the international market. Smugglers target the tortoise as there is a high demand for it across the world as a pet and for medicine use.