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Thursday, June 6, 2013

9000 baby tortoises seized at Chennai Airport ~ came by air from Kuala Lumpur


‘Turtles don’t fly’  –  Turtles are reptiles, characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs and acting as a shield.

There are many stories involving tortoise, especially of its winning a race against a hare.  There is also the interesting story of ‘tortoise flying’ and ‘speaking madly’ in Panchatantra.   Once upon a time, there was a tortoise by the name of Kambugriva and two geese by the name of Sankata and Vikata.  When the local pond dried up totally, the geese tried shifting the tortoise by air; the geese took each side of a lengthy sticky, to which tortoise was to hang by holding on its mouth…… midway, curious to answer, the tortoise spoke, opening its mouth, letting off the stick int the process, fell down and died……..  Moral : listen to friendly advice and never speak when not required.  

Kemp's ridley is the most endangered species of sea turtle as its population has dwindled due to over-harvest of eggs and loss of juveniles and adults due to commercial fishing.  There have been instances where turtles have been relocated to save their species.  The one reported in Times of India, Chennai Edition of date [27th Mar 2013] certainly is not for that purpose.

TOI reports that at Chennai,  Air customs seized 9,000 baby tortoises from a passenger who arrived from Kuala Lumpur by a Malaysian Airlines flight on Tuesday. The consignment was handed over to the forest officials, while R Narayanan from Kolathur, who tried to smuggle in the reptiles claiming that they were packaged food, was fined.

Around 1,500 tortoises died because they had been kept in three bags for more than 10 hours. Narayanan had bought the tortoises, each three inches in size, from China. Forest officials told customs that the tortoises were an exotic species and would not survive for more than 15 hours inside bags. Customs sleuths intercepted Narayanan when he tried to walk through green channel with three bags. He insisted that he had nothing to declare. “He told us that the bags contained packaged food. We opened the bags and found the tortoises inside plastic bags. When questioned he told us he had bought them in China and was bringing them as pets,” said a customs official.
illustrative photo ~ not the ones seized

Customs seized the tortoises as exotic species are not allowed to be brought from abroad. “The large number indicates that they may have been brought for commercial purposes,” he said. Exotic species do not come under the Wildlife Protection Act and not much action can be taken against the passenger. Forest officials have quarantined the tortoises and have not identified the species.

There have been instances of seizure of ornamental fish and star tortoises but 9000 tortoises is perhaps the first and biggest of its kind. 

Totally away from this ‘ Turtles Can Fly ’  -  is a 2004 film written and directed by the Kurdish Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi, a  film to be made in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  The film is set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th March 2013.

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