As many as 4,800 red eared slider turtles of Chinese origin were seized by Customs at the Chennai airport from two passengers arrived from Bangkok on Thursday.
They were walking in a fast manner, looking around constantly, which aroused suspicion among the officials. This prompted the latter to stop the duo and question them. However, during questioning, their answers were evasive, following which the Customs officials decided to check their baggage.
On examination, each passenger was found to be carrying 2,400 live turtles which were concealed in carton boxes. A total of 4,800 live turtles were recovered from them. With the help of Wildlife officials, the species were identified as red eared sliders, an exotic species of Chinese origin.
The import of this species of turtles is banned in India, as they are an invasive species that can cause negative impact on ecosystem.
The two passengers were told to pay fine of Rs 1 lakh each and the turtles were ordered to be returned to the country of origin.
Customs officials noted the particular turtle is species in demand in Chennai because many people nurture it as ornamental pet at their residences.
In October this year, 2,300 red eared turtles were seized from one passenger at Chennai airport.