On Tuesday, the wildlife and customs officials rescued 2,247 star tortoises at the customs cargo shed in Chennai and in another operation, the wildlife officials rescued 70 rose-ringed parakeets.
Both the animals are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. They were handed over to the local foresters for rehabilitation, said wildlife officials said.
“Based on the intelligence received on Monday, officers of Chennai Air Cargo Customs intercepted an export consignment, suspected to have wildlife, at the air cargo shed at Meenambakkam. The consignment was destined for Thailand,” said a press release issued by the Commissioner of customs, Chennai Air Cargo.
As per the shipping bill, the items were declared as 250 kg of live mud crab and it was found that 10 out of 15 packages had a total of 2,247 live Indian star tortoises, the release said.
When contacted, principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj said the department was on high alert after receiving intelligence about poaching. “We have reached out to other stakeholders like the wildlife crime control bureau, Chennai Customs, State police and, if required, the department, after getting State’s consent, may also reach out to the CBI for further investigations and wildlife crime prevention,” Niraj said.
The recent joint surveillance in Ramanathapuram, Tiruchy and Kottagiri have helped the officials to zero in on active poachers, the warden said. The chief wildlife warden also urged the public and the wildlife activists to look out for any clues related to wildlife poaching. The public should also stay away from buying parrots that are protected under the wildlife protection act. Once the local demand is cut, we can protect the wildlife better, Niraj, who has served in Traffic India as head of wildlife crime investigations, said.
“We are also revising the standard operating procedures for the rehabilitation of these rescued animals so that the mortality rate of rescued wild animals are brought down,” Niraj added.
It may be noted that the international pet trade industry has been thriving in recent years with export and imports. Import of exotic lizards, snakes and a leopard cub was reported at Chennai airport over the past four years.