A team of police personnel who went in search of ganja smugglers in Kasimedu fishing harbour ended up with a bigger catch - two boxes full of star tortoises worth Rs 30 lakh - on Wednesday night.
Police seized the boxes and found crabs in one and star tortoises in the two other boxes. One of the boxes had stickers which mentioned that they were about to be exported to Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia via Thai Air cargo. The boxes were handed over to the superintendent in the Customs Department. Further investigation will be carried out by Customs officials, said police.
Customs officials said that the two boxes contained 490 Indian star tortoises and were about to be transported in the guise of mud crabs by Daily Fresh Exports and Imports from Nagapattinam. They have been handed over to Forest officials.
The Indian star tortoises are protected under both schedule IV of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and CITES. These are traded for food, medicinal purposes and also kept as exotic pets, said customs officials. Malaysia is a major growing hub of illegal wildlife trade as Malaysia does not implement CITES effectively, they added.
Last December, 210 star tortoises which were destined for Bangkok were seized at Chennai International airport.