Thane: Rescued star tortoises have nowhere to go
With a number of star tortoises being rescued in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and other, the lack of space available with NGOs and the forest department to keep them has become a major cause of worry.
In fact, the Thane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TSPCA) has put forth a proposal to the forest department to set up a ‘rescue and transit’ facility at Karnala bird sanctuary, where the tortoises can be sheltered for a while before being released into their natural habitat.
Star tortoises are a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and are very popular in the illegal pet market. People consider them lucky and as a harbinger of good fortune.
Debashish Majumdar, vice-president, TSPCA, said that, in the last two months, they must have got at least 200 star tortoises, varying from 10 cm to a few feet long. While a majority were seized from shops, others were pets that were either abandoned or given up by owners.
« Where do they go? We have run out of space to keep them. Even the forest department does not have adequate room, » Majumdar said.
Star tortoises require a lot of care and upkeep and it was during a meeting with the conservator of forests, Karnala, that TSPCA mooted a rescue and transit facility.
« There are a few empty enclosures that were built, which can now be converted into a facility for star tortoises. Even some turtles can be kept there by providing similar facilities in their natural habitat — like sun-basking areas, since most of them die due to lack of sun basking. Once they learn to survive, they can be released into their natural habitat, » said Majumdar. He said that the TSPCA was ready to raise funds for the facility.
Several activists who have been rescuing star tortoises, flapshell turtles and others, claim that, at times, they feel sad that the lives of these animals become worse after rescue since the forest department keeps them in small boxes, plastic trays and on concrete floors. Most of them don’t survive.
« What is the purpose of rescuing them if they continue to suffer? Hence, having a good facility is extremely important. In fact, recently, after 112 star tortoises were rescued by the forest department from illegal pet shops, they had no space to keep them. So, we took them to the Byculla zoo. What if we get 200 more in the coming months? Where would we take them? » said Pawan Sharma, president of RAWW, an NGO working on urban wildlife.
Divisional forest officer (anti-poaching) Pravin Patil agreed that there was an urgent need for such a facility. « We have discussed the proposal with TSPCA and we will surely work together to ensure that such a facility is set up soon, » said Patil.