Posted by: Pelodiscus on 2016/11/28 6:20:00 1161 reads

Tortoises Despite Arrests, Illegal Trade in Star Tortoises Continues Unabated

Despite Arrests, Illegal Trade in Star Tortoises Continues Unabated
The Indian star tortoise is the most traded tortoise species in the world. Every year, thousands of them are confiscated mostly at airports. According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, close to 8,000 were seized over a ten-year period between 1990 and 1999. But this number shot up in the following decade. Officials stopped more than 36,000 from leaving the country between 2000 and 2013. An overwhelming majority of these – about 20,500 – were confiscated from Tamil Nadu.

All these star tortoises were most probably picked up from the wild as there’s no evidence of a captive breeding operation. So how big is the trade?

Although star tortoises were traded throughout the 1970s, it’s hard to know when it really began. In 1991, Indraneil Das, a turtle and tortoise specialist, wrote that an estimated 10,000 were sold every year at Calcutta’s New Market. In 1993, reptile experts B.C. Choudhury and S. Bhupathy put the annual trade at 10,000 to 15,000. In an article for the Indian wildlife magazine Sanctuary Asia, published in 2005, B.K. Sharma, a senior official at the Central Bureau of Investigation, estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 star tortoises were being traded every year.

The popular thumb-rule is that only 10% of the trade is confiscated. If that equation is flipped around, can we assume that 360,000 star tortoises were traded between 2000 and 2013? That’s an average of 28,000 per year. We don’t know.

Photo: A star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) in Sri Lanka. Credit: Janaki Lenin
written by: Janaki Lenin

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