August 22, 2016
Following the seizure of coral reef from an aquarium in Coimbatore, forest officials on Monday seized two Indian star tortoises from an aquarium near Sidhapudhur here. The seizure comes within a month after 500 live Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) were seized at the Chennai airport on July 29.
Coming under the Schedule IV of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the species is one of the most traded reptile with a great demand all over the world.
According to sources, more than 1000 star tortoises are sold every year from Coimbatore alone from where it is taken to the other South Indian cities. The tortoises are sold at Rs. 1500 per three inches. The cost depends to the size of the species.
Sources also claimed that despite being a native species of India, living in the scrub forests, grasslands and coastal scrublands, these tortoises are bred mostly in Sri Lanka along with other species of tortoises. “They are also bred in Kerala, Sri Lanka, Assam and other areas and then brought to the targeted markets,” the sources added.
A research article published in the Nature Conservation journal claims that these reptiles are in great demand in the international market in Asia and in the West. There are also various online portals permitting the trade of Indian star tortoises, along with Burmese star tortoises. A baby Indian star is sold online at $500 and there are also Face book pages that provide sale details of these tortoises.
S. Chandrasekar, from the Vanam Trust of India, Coimbatore, who was instrumental in cracking the case, said that many people falsely believe that consuming the meat of star tortoise would improve their sexual life. “People eat them citing such crazy reasons or keep them as exotic pets. They are largely kept in tanks and are fed with tomatoes, which are very bad for their health,” he pointed out.
The owner of the Asian Aquarium from where the tortoises were found has been arrested under the Wildlife Protection Act and was fined Rs.25000