Kolkata: 952 star tortoises have been seized by Indian border troops when they were being smuggled across to Bangladesh, in one of the largest seizures of these endangered reptiles.
The incident occurred yesterday in the Tentulberia area of North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal when an alert Border Security Force (BSF) patrol intercepted two smugglers on foot walking towards the Bangladesh border.
On seeing the border guards, the two men dropped their haversacks and ran into the fields which led to the recovery of the 952 star tortoises making it the biggest ever seizure of these reptiles being smuggled out illegally.
The rescued animals are worth Rs 3.19 crore in the illegal market, according to officials.
The BSF later handed over the animals to the state forest department authorities.
The Indian Star tortoise, `Geochelone Elegans`, is protected under the IVth Schedule of the Wildlife Protection Act which puts a ban on its possession and transfer in any form for commercial use.
It is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The star tortoise is quite attractive, growing up to around 30cm across the carapace and it faces a number of threats as it is traded for food, used in traditional medicine and reared as a pet in Asia and North America.