Hyderabad: Despite Forest Department appealing to people not to buy or raise endangered species, many, especially aquarium or pet shop owners continue to trade such species in the city. On Saturday, Forest Department officials caught two persons involved in the illegal trade of 330 live Assam Roofed Turtle or Sylhet Roofed Turtle and Indian Tent Turtles, which fall under Schedule-I of Wildlife Act, at Ramanthapur in Hyderabad.
They were handed over to Forest Range Officer, Uppal Range of Medchal District for initiating further action. Under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, these species are granted protection from poaching, killing, trading etc. Persons involved in the trading of these species are punishable.
Based on a tip-off, the Vigilance Party-II and Anti-Poaching Squad from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests office conducted an undercover operation and caught two persons at Ramanthapur. The accused have been identified as Shiva Balak and Rahul Kashyap, both natives of Bakhtiyar Nagar in Lucknow. According to Forest Department officials, Shiva Balak had bought the turtles from Lucknow. The turtles were collected from River Gomti in Uttar Pradesh by their accomplices, who in turn sent them to Hyderabad through train for selling them to prospective buyers, which includes aquarium shops and pet stores in and around Hyderabad.
During the investigation, the accused informed that they were regularly trading turtles to earn quick money. The accused also confessed that they were selling the turtles for Rs 400 per pair in wholesale markets and Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 in retail. Forest officials informed that most of the aquarium or pet shop owners buy these turtles from the accused, considering them to be Singapore Turtles or Green Turtles, which are exotic and easily available in the markets.
Majority of aquarium or pet owners are not aware that these seized turtles come under Schedule-I of Wildlife Act, 1972, they added. This is not the first time as this inter-State gang has already brought a sizeable number of turtles on many occasions and successfully disposed of the stock in and around Hyderabad. Apart from making profits, the offenders are putting local flora and fauna at risk as most of the turtles are abandoned into local water bodies once they attain adulthood, forest officials informed.
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