Mumbai: 100 Indian star tortoises rescued in covert op
In a joint covert operation by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and the anti-poaching unit of the forest department, Thane, 100 Indian star tortoises, protected under schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 were seized near Kurla station on August 13 after a tip-off.
Two people were taken into the custody of the forest department for 10 days. One of those arrested is a 19-year-old, Omkar Kashivishwanath, a resident of Bhandup, and Aslam Muhammad, 29, the supplier.
Officials from the anti-poaching unit, Thane, said they had received a confidential message on August 13 about a local selling tortoises at Kurla station.
Pravin Patil, divisional forest officer, anti-poaching unit, Thane, said, “Along with WCCB, a team of 10 officers set a trap at a temple close to Kurla station. One of our officers pretended to be a buyer and contacted the accused.”
(Photo courtesy: Anti-poaching unit of forest department)
Patil said the temple was decided as the designated spot where the transaction would take place. “The accused asked our undercover officer to bring Rs 35,000 for 100 tortoises, which was estimated at Rs 350 a tortoise,” he said.
While the transaction was being done, officers from both agencies immediately caught the accused from near the temple and took him into custody. “We arrested Aslam Muhammad from Nahur railway station under similar circumstances by asking Omkar to get in touch with him to make the payment for the previous consignment,” said M Maranko, regional deputy director, WCCB.
Both the accused were presented at a magistrate court in Vikhroli on August 14 and are currently in the custody of the forest department till August 24, which is also the date for the next hearing.
The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a medium sized species of tortoise found in the dry and arid forests of both India and Sri Lanka.
* The Indian star tortoise is named for the star-like patterns on its high-domed shell.
* The reptile is protected under schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
* Size: 20cm – 30cm (8in – 12in)
* Weight: 1.3kg – 2.2kg
* Lifespan: 30-80 years
* Conservation Status: Threatened