Officials of the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) nabbed two passengers, who were supposed to fly to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday night, and rescued 183 spotted pond turtles from their possession. The arrested smugglers were identified as Sayyad Ibrahim Sikandar and Shahjahan Naina Mohammed. Both hail from Chennai.
The Customs officials said the rescued turtles, valued at Rs 1.83 lakh, are listed under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The smugglers were supposed to board Malindo Air’s OD 216 flight at 11:15 pm from T2. After the primary investigations, the Customs officials handed over the turtles to the Thane Forest Department officials.
The accused, both from Chennai, were nabbed at T2 before they boarded the flight to Kuala Lumpur with the turtles
“This is not the first time that a protected species has been rescued, and neither will it be the last. But what remains a matter of concern is lack of rehabilitation centres for the rescued animals. The Forest Department needs to take up this issue on a war footing. We had informed the Principal Secretary of Forests Vikas Kharge about this particular issue and he had promised to deal with it immediately.
However, it’s been a month since we met him, and there seems to be no progress in this matter,” said Shakuntala Mazumdar, president, Thane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TSPCA).
Pawan Sharma, founder, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) said, “The spotted pond turtle is a protected species. They deserve the same level of protection given to leopards, lions or tigers. Confiscation of such a large number is shocking. Wildlife crimes are rising with each passing day, especially against lesser-known species.
This is a matter of great concern and needs to be countered immediately.” Veterinary doctor Deepa Katiyal, to whom these turtles were handed over, said, “While most of the turtles are healthy, a few need treatment because they’ve suffered eye injuries.
The smallest turtle weighs 100 grams, while the largest ones are about 600 grams. There is a possibility that these turtles were to be slaughtered and sold as exotic meat in Kuala Lumpur.”