Endangered species? No problem! MiD DAY finds that it is all too easy to get one's hands on the rare animals at the nooks and crannies of Crawford Market
WHILE major newspapers and television channels will dedicate space and reels of video to celebrate World Environment Day, a day when one pledges support to the conservation of the natural world, MiD DAY presents one of the biggest examples of public apathy towards the issue.
Pet shops in Crawford market sell Star Tortoise for any thing between Rs 300 and Rs 1,200
A team from MiD DAY visited pet shops at Crawford Market and found the animals being stored in appalling conditions. In one corner of the store, our reporter found shop owners selling Star Tortoises, a species protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
When the team enquired around with shop owners about the sale of the tortoise, several of them refused to entertain them. However, there were a few who after much coaxing agreed to sell off the endangered species.
The cost of a Star Tortoise is anywhere between Rs 300 and Rs 1,200.
However, after much bargaining, one owner decided to sell us a tortoise for Rs 600. At the time of transaction, MiD DAY caught a glimpse of the conditions the tortoises are kept in and found that approximately 12 of them were stuffed together in plastic bags and when sold were given in bags with holes in them.
The owner also told MiD DAY that several tortoises are sold everyday, as they are considered lucky according to the principles of feng shui.
After buying the tortoise, MiD DAY team rushed the tortoise to The Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) for its proper care and welfare.
LT Col (Dr) JC Khanna, secretary of BSPCA, said it was appalling to see that the tortoises were being sold in the open market and added that people who buy them are at fault. "It's sad how these creatures are mistreated.
The demand for these creatures are high owing to several myths and religious beliefs attached to them. We carry out raids regularly and rescue the creatures. Custom officials also seize tortoises being smuggled into the country from Singapore and Malaysia."
Suresh Kadam, assistant secretary, BSPCA, added, "We often conduct checks and confiscate various creatures such as mongoose, owls, sparrows and love birds.
However, it is pointless as no one owns up to these tortoises, which are stuffed outside the shops in plastic bags and we have to file a complaint against an unknown person. Hence, they go scot free."
Asked what happens to rescued tortoises, Khanna said, "Unfortunately, very few of them survive in the open as they are not used to the wild and a good act goes to waste." he added.
MiD DAY handed over the tortoise to the BSPCA, who plan to release it into Karnala Sanctuary.