A suspected wildlife smuggler carrying rare, critically endangered species of tortoise found only in Indian Ocean island countries was apprehended in Manipur’s Chandel by the Assam Rifles.
In a tweet on Sunday, the paramilitary force which guards the Indo-Myanmar border said it recovered “rare species of radiated tortoise in Chandel District.”
According to a source, a local carrying four plastic boxes on Kenbo — a Chinese made two-wheeler popular in the Indo-Myanmar border areas —was stopped by a team of Assam Rifles at around 2 am on January 29.
The security personnel recovered four tortoises from the boxes. An expert with a leading conservation NGO, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said three of the four tortoises included two Radiated tortoises and one juvenile Aldabra tortoise.
Radiated tortoise, found in dry spiny forests of southern and southwestern Madagascar are ‘critically endangered’ as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Aldabra tortoise, said to be one of the largest land tortoises, are found in Aldabra in Seychelles. A male Aldabra tortoise could weigh up to 250 kilograms. They are classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN list.
Investigators suspect the animals were brought in from South East Asia. “We are not sure whether they were brought in from Thailand or Singapore,” the source said. The suspected smuggler who was apprehended was merely a local carrier entrusted with transporting the animals from Indo-Myanmar border to Imphal, Manipur’s capital.
“We are not sure about the destination,” the source said, adding that the animals were handed over to divisional forest officer, Tengnoupal.