Railway Police force find 80 Indian tent turtles at Dadar station

Mumbai,Oct4:Railway Police Force (RPF) patrolling Dadar station were in for a surprise when they broke open an unclaimed bag on board the Pushpak Express, travelling from Uttar Pradesh, after it arrived at Dadar station’s platform number 6 on Saturday evening.

RPF personnel found a creep of 80 Indian tent turtles, protected under Schedule I of the of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Five of the turtles were found dead.

RPF personnel CG Memane and Pankaj Kalke chanced upon an unclaimed bag in the ladies coach during a routine inspection of the Pushpak Express after it arrived at Dadar station at 7.55pm. The duo noticed the bag moving,” said an RPF official on condition of anonymity.

Soon after the discovery, Dadar RPF sub-inspector Girish Rathod informed the state forest department’s Thane division. The turtles were then handed over to forest officer Ravindra Tavar at around 11:45pm on Saturday.

Lauding the RPF duo’s prompt response, the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau’s (WCCB) regional deputy director M Marankos said turtle smugglers prefer transporting their haul on long-distance trains. “During some of our latest crackdowns on turtle smugglers, we found out that turtles and tortoises were primarily transported from Jhansi to Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai,” he said, adding WCCB has urged RPF and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel to be on alert and bust smuggling rackets.

Mayur Kamath, Mumbai’s honorary wildlife warden and State Wildlife Board member, said the only way to clamp down on turtle smuggling was to “break its backbone”. “Dedicated forest department teams need to be pressed into service to keep vigil on illegal turtle trade routes. They should gather information and crack the whip on smugglers. Prompt and continuous action will thwart future smuggling bids,” said Kamath, adding that turtles are regarded as Feng Sui lucky charms and symbols of wealth.

According to wildlife experts, there is a huge demand for Indian and exotic tortoises and turtles. In fact, most citizens keep them as pets. “Indian tent turtles have a high demand due to the tent-like appearance. These hump-like projections serve as unique selling point,” said a wildlife expert on condition of anonymity.

In July, an RPF constable belonging to the Central Railways detained a 59-year-old woman and seized three star tortoises from her possession at Dadar station.

KP Singh, the forest department’s chief conservator in Thane, said there have 699 cases of crime against wildlife reported in the past one year.