Rare turtle trafficking rampant in Southeast Asia
NEW DELHI, March 31 — Global wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said two cities in India are being increasingly used to smuggle rare tortoises and freshwater turtles to Hong Kong via Bangkok, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
The recent arrest of suspected smugglers at an airport in Thai capital Bangkok showed these endangered species originated from Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Gaya in the eastern Bihar state.
“This previously unknown trade route used to smuggle turtles from Gaya and Varanasi to Bangkok is often used by religious tourists,” said Shekhar Kumar Niraj, head of TRAFFIC in India.
A statement from TRAFFIC said the involvement of Thailand, India and Hong Kong in illegal trade of rare tortoises and freshwater turtles was highlighted earlier this year when over 1,000 animals were confiscated from smugglers in three separate seizures.
In all three cases, the animals were smuggled via Bangkok with at least two incidents involving tortoises and freshwater turtles that originated from India. On March 12, customs officers at Bangkok Airport seized 218 black spotted turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) and 54 Indian narrow-headed softshell turtles (Chitra indica) in a luggage.
Niraj said cooperation between India and other member nations of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) is vital to combat rising organised illegal wildlife trade in the region.
Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC regional director in Southeast Asia, said arresting perpetrators was not the answer to putting a stop to the practice that is driving the population of rare tortoises and freshwater turtles to the brink.
“Seeking out and stopping the big guns that control this trade should be the real focus of enforcement action,” he said. — Bernama