Two Malaysia-Bound Air Passengers Held
With 870 Protected Tortoises

July 23, 2007

By P. Vijian

CHENNAI, July 23 (Bernama) -- In a pre-dawn raid today, India's Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) sleuths seized 870 endangered live Star tortoises from two Malaysia-bound passengers at the Chennai International Airport.

Following a tip-off, the DRI officers trailed the two Indian nationals who were carrying a suitcase and a cardboard box.

When questioned by the authorities on their contents, they replied the suitcase contained clothing and the cardboard box, spices.

However, the dissatisfied officers opened their belongings and discovered hidden inside the suitcase and the cardboard box about 1,000 Star tortoises which could easily fetch about RM100,000 (about one million Rupees) in the international market.

"The suitcase contained 540 tortoises and the box, 330. The two suspects were handed over to the local wildlife authorities for further investigation," a DRI official, who declined to be named, told Bernama.

The Star-patterned tortoises are frequently smuggled from India to Southeast Asian countries where there is a growing demand for the endangered species, which are often used for medicinal purposes or end up as exotic dishes in restaurants or are sent to pet shops.

In April this year, Malaysian Customs authorities detained an Indian national at the KL International Airport trying to smuggle into the country about 400 live Star tortoises that were kept in a cabin luggage.

The confiscated tortoises were flown back to India in May.

India has classified the Star tortoise under Schedule 4 of the Wildlife Protection Act, which makes breeding and transporting the species an offence.





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