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Hundreds of seized star tortoises released into Guindy but they fail to reach adulthood
The reintroduction programme of seized star tortoises inside the Guindy National Park has turned out to be a damp squib.
Majority of the tortoises introduced into the GNP are missing and the state has failed to monitor the reintroduction programme of the ill-designed conservation programme. There are cases of natural deaths and suspected poaching by the wildlife staff. These reptiles that were released inside the GNP is now a question mark, said a highly placed wildlife source. For the past 15 years, hundreds of poached star tortoises are released into the wild, but there is no monitoring mechanism or visible sighting of these reptiles turning into large adults, the official source said.
According to wildlife sources, early this week the customs officials seized 2247 star tortoises at the Chennai airport and now they are housed at Vandalur zoo for quarantine. The general practice is to release them into the reserve forests like Guindy national park, vandalur reserve forest, Sathyamangalam and Cauvery wildlife sanctuary, but their sighting and survival is a question that awaits an answer.
Similar is the case of rescued birds that are already dehydrated at the time of rescue and there have been cases of rangers at wildlife headquarters who had been depending on volunteers to feed the seized birds, which is an unhealthy practice. The mortality rate of the seized wild animals is an issue and these issues will be taken up to the office of the chief wildlife warden seeking his intervention, the sources said.
When contacted a senior forest department official said that he would look into the issue and said that his department is in the process of floating a standard operating procedure for the seized and rescued wild animals. The state foresters are successful when it comes to the rehabilitation of large animals like elephants and leopards, but the situation is below satisfactory level while dealing with animals like spotted deer, star tortoises and parakeets, the official said.
It may be noted that in the past ten years the Chennai police had been investigating the missing of poached sand boas from Chennai Snake Park and Vandalur zoo suspecting foresters and the staff attached to the Chennai Snake Park. The police also checked the bank accounts of foresters, though a departmental suspension was awarded to a few staff, the robbery case of reptiles saw no breakthrough.