Turning star turtle

Daily News and Analysis (DNA)
Monday, May 12, 2008  11:51 IST

Ashwin Aghor

Defying all rules and regulations of wildlife trade, star turtles are being sold openly in the city. The highly endangered turtle can be bought at a virtually throwaway price at Crawford market. Acting on a tip off, volunteers of Plant and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Mumbai procured one such turtle from the market just for Rs500.

?We received information that traders at Crawford market were violating the wildlife protection laws and many endangered animals were being sold openly,? said S Kunju of PAWS, Mumbai. Star turtle is a schedule IV animal and protected under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. 

Posing as customers, a team from PAWS led by Kunju approached Toufiq Khan of Fin O Feather, shop number 13 at Crawford Market. ?Initially Khan quoted Rs700 for the turtle but the deal was struck for Rs500. Buying a star turtle was as easy as buying vegetables from a vendor,? Kunju said.

Karim Khan, founder of People in Defence of Animals, a city-based NGO said that the vendors at Crawford market are known to be involved in wildlife trade. ?Many endangered animals are sold openly in the market. The animals are generally kept at places near the market and delivered as per the demand,? he said. Wildlife trade is flourishing in the area as the police are hand in glove with the culprits Khan added.

A letter, in this regard, has been sent to the assistant conservator of forest (Wildlife), Thane, chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Mumbai and Thane and also the principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Nagpur. The turtle is currently in possession of PAWS and will soon be handed over to the forest department, Kunju said.

?The Indian star tortoise is threatened by the pet trade and people can help by not buying it from pet shops. People should report such activities to the authorities concerned,? said naturalist Sunjoy Monga.

Assistant conservator of forest (wildlife), Thane SG Fale said, ?Trade of star turtle is banned. We have conducted many raids in the market.? Fale has assured to take action against the traders.

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