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80 star tortoises seized from passenger at Trichy airport

TRICHY: The air intelligence unit of the customs seized 80 star tortoises from a 49-year-old passenger at the Trichy International Airport in the midnight of Thursday. The man, identified as K Zahir Hussain of Ilaiyankudi in Sivaganga district, was trying to smuggle the tortoises to Bangkok. Forest department officials took custody of the species and the man for interrogation early on Friday morning.
Trade in star tortoises has been banned under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Hussain had concealed the tortoises in carton boxes and placed them inside two travel bags. However, they were detected during scanning. He was to board a Bangkok-bound Thai Air Asia flight.
Upon the seizure, customs officials informed the forest department officials in Trichy who visited the airport and recovered the contraband on Friday bmorning. Hussai was also taken into their custody for further interrogation.

During interrogation, Hussain told the officials that he was asked by one Jamal to deliver the two bags to someone in Bangkok for which he assured Rs 8,000 payment. Unconvinced by his reply, forest officials continued their grilling.

« Once the interrogation is over, we will decide on the action to be taken on the issue, » said forest ranger officer of Trichy, M Balakrishnan.

 Forest officials recalled the a previous instance of the seizure of 300 star tortoises at the Trichy airport and the arrest of five people in this connection in 2015. The destination for that contraband was also Bangkok.
 In India, most of the people consider tortoises as a sign of bad luck. The scenario, however, is different in some countries where the market for star tortoises is vast as the species are reportedly used as an ingredient for making medicines and also for vaasthu. Hence, the trade has been thriving in some of the Southeast Asian countries as there was no ban.
 « Bangkok plays a connecting point to smuggle star tortoises to some other countries by sea. The price for smuggled start tortoises is yet to be ascertained, » said forest range officer, roving check post, Trichy, M Malarkandan.
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