Lucknow: In one of the biggest such hauls in India, Uttar Pradesh police seized 6,400 freshwater turtles stuffed in bags which were destined for China and other Southeast Asian countries as part of a massive smuggling network.
Raj Bahadur Singh, the kingpin of an inter-state gang involved in smuggling of turtles, was arrested in the raid carried out at Gauriganj town of Amethi on Tuesday, Special Task Force (STF) spokesman said here.
“We have recovered such a huge amount of turtles from one single location. We are investigating this further and looking at the involvement of more people in the smuggling ring,” said Additional Superintendent of Police Arvind Chaturvedi, who led the STF raid.
During interrogation, Singh disclosed that small poachers were involved in catching turtles from Gauriganj, Jagdishpur and Salwan areas and supplying them to organised smugglers, the official said.
Singh said he used to collect these animals from smugglers and transport them to Kolkata — the main transit point — from where they are smuggled to Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian countries.
Forty per cent of the turtle species are listed in the endangered category of International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Species.
There is a high demand for turtles abroad for meat and so-called use in occult and aphrodisiacs.
The official claimed that the accused also gave information about smugglers and poachers in UP, West Bengal and Odisha reflecting the huge and highly organised smuggling network in the country.
The turtle species is native to South Asia and is found only in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
In India, it is found in the Gangetic belt all along Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, especially in the Ghagra-Gomti tributaries.
They are spread across Fatehgarh, Kannauj, Allahabad and Varanasi in the state.
Meanwhile, UP forest department today issued a statewide alert and has warned that more raids will be conducted in the coming days to crack down on the smuggling of turtles.