Poaching, Demand for Meat Threaten Endangered Tortoises in Mandya District

Poaching, Demand for Meat Threaten Endangered Tortoises in Mandya District

MYSURU: The Muthathi forest range, Induvalu and K Shettahalli ranges in Mandya district have become the favourite spots for killer poachers and tortoise meat lovers.

The growing demand for tortoise meat locally is making poachers increasingly hunt down these endangered species, pushing them to the brink of extinction.

When contacted, forest officials spoke of their helplessness to tackle the menace due to the shortage of staff. Medium-sized tortoises weighing around 3 kg are found abundantly in these forest regions, and are most sought after for their taste and perceived medicinal value.

Poachers hunt wild tortoises found in ponds, canals and banks of the rivers, kill them and grill the meat on the fire and sell it to visitors. Alternatively, they sell the meat to the resorts they are tied up with as it fetches good money. These tortoises emit a peculiar odour, which can be smelt even at a distance of 100 metres. Tracking this scent, poachers hunt down the tortoises.  A senior forest officer, who did not wish to be named, told Express that a few years ago they had arrested poachers at Srirangapatna and seized 200 tortoises from them.

The poachers would divert the river water into the huge potholes created by sand dredgers along the river Cauvery in Srirangapatna and lure the tortoises with animal waste, which is their primary diet, the officer said.

DCF Vasanth Reddy of Muthathi forest range said that appropriate action will be taken against the culprits.

Mandya DFO Ramalinge Gowda said, “Watchers have been deputed at Induvalu and we are looking into the issue. The photos we have got clearly indicate that it was the flesh of a tortoise, but we could not identify the species as the tortoise was completely burnt.”

He said that it has become easy for poachers to sneak in and hunt tortoises as there are several paddy fields in the vicinity of the Induvalu forest range.

Indian Fresh Water Terrapins: D Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation said the Indian fresh water terrapins are found commonly throughout India. Included under the Wildlife Protection Act and classified as near-threatened in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) red list, the tortoises are particularly threatened by hunting.

“Hunted for their soft meat, tortoises are  sold in the market also for their aphrodisiac properties,” he said.