Smuggled star tortoises brought back from Singapore

Smuggled star tortoises brought back from Singapore

The tortoises being prepped for their journey to India. Wildlife SOS 

 The Karnataka forest department and the NGO, Wildlife SOS, repatriated 50 Indian Star Tortoises back to their homeland on Monday. This is the first time the forest department is bringing back a smuggled endangered species.

The forest department and conservationists are now keen to nab culprits and control the illegal wildlife trade thriving in south-east Asian countries.

Over 100 tortoises were smuggled to Singapore in various batches in the last two-three years which the Singapore airport officials confiscated. Of this, the first batch of 50 made their way back to Bengaluru.

After landing at the Kempegowda International Airport, the tortoises have been quarantined for a period of three months for monitoring. The department will release the tortoises, after observing their behaviour.

“This is the first operation of bringing back seized wildlife from a foreign country with the help of customs officials. Singapore is the hub of illegal wildlife trafficking. With this success, more animals can be brought back.

"Animals and birds like the elusive Slender Loris, parakeets, tortoises, frogs, chameleons and baby crocodiles are smuggled. In 2008, customs and airport officials in Bengaluru had seized around 1,000 red-eared slider turtles which had come from Singapore to Bengaluru,” said a forest department official.

The department and Wildlife SOS are also looking towards training and coordinating with customs and CISF officials in screening luggage and hand baggage to control illegal wildlife trade. It has also been noticed that when cargo is labelled with perishable goods, the airport officials expedite clearances. Animals like tortoises are stuffed underneath orchids, flowers and fruits.

“Singapore officials informed us of the tortoises, which were seized from different people flying from Bengaluru, over the past16 months. We also found that many tortoises and other animals were coming to Singapore since the last two-three years in various consignments. With the help of Acres Rescue Centre, the tortoises were brought back to Bengaluru. Around 20% of them will be radio tagged for study purposes,” said Karthik Satyanarayana, Co-Founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS.

Chief Wildlife Warden C Jayaram said that the department will work to rehabilitate and release the tortoises back to their natural habitat.