At least 23 turtles of a highly endangered species, the Red Crowned Roof, were recovered from smugglers in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, on Tuesday.
The amphibians with brightly coloured heads – also known as ‘lal tilakdhari’ and ‘Batagur Kachuga’ in Hindi – were fished out from the Chambal River and destined for southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, etc. They are popular here for their meat and as pets, the poachers confessed.
They were being taken to Chennai to be shipped out, and tickets for a Chennai-bound train were also found, police said. The Special Task Force (STF) of UP, led by additional superintendent of police Arvind Chaturvedi, nabbed them from Agra, where they had set up the centre of their illegal trade.
|RED CROWNED ROOF SELLS FOR RS 2 LAKH IN THAILAND|
ASP Arvind Chaturvedi said, “We got valuable inputs regarding the presence of these poachers from WCCB (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau) chief in UP, Dr Rupak Dey, and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) chief Shailendra Singh.” “We sought information from adjoining areas, Mainpuri, Gwalior and Mathura as well, and finally caught Deependra and Ajay on March 20. They were later recognised as international smugglers operating across Asia and 23 Red Crowned Roof Turtles were recovered from them,” he said.
On interrogation, Ajay revealed that he has been involved in catching turtles in Yamuna and Chambal River for last five to six years now. He deals in two turtle species primarily – the Red Crowned Roof and Chitrika Indica. He also admitted to regularly transporting them through Kolkata and Chennai ports and that his foreign contacts received them. While the Red Crowned Roof turtle sells for Rs 4000 near Chambal River, in Singapore and Thailand it is bought for $2000 per piece, which is a whopping Rs 1.5-2 lakh.
Similarly, Chitrika Indica also goes for very high rates. Notably, the Red Crowned Roof Turtle is a critically endangered species and in fact, shares the protection status of the tiger by being on Schedule 1 of the ‘Wildlife Crime Act (1972).’ TSA’s Shailendra Singh said, “We suspect that because of extreme poaching, there are only about 500 of these turtles left in Chambal.”