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Rare black spotted turtles seized along India-Bangladesh border


 Times of India, New Delhi, 18 Mar, 2015

 Jayanta Gupta

KOLKATA: The Border Security Force (BSF), on Wednesday, seized 97 rare Asian black spotted turtles close to the India-Bangladesh border. The turtles, being smuggled into Bangladesh near the Kalanchi Border Outpost in the Gaighata police station area of North 24-Parganas are valued at nearly Rs 58.20 lakh in the international market. This is the second seizure of such turtles near the International Border this year. On January 29, the BSF seized 185 turtles of this species near Kalanchi. That seizure was valued at nearly Rs 1.11 crore in the international market.


"Around 10.40 am, BSF authorities of the BSF 152Bn generated specific intelligence of a consignment of turtles being smuggled to Bangladesh. An ambush was laid to trap the smugglers. When a person was spotted carrying a large bag near the IB, he was challenged. He dropped the bag and fled into thick foliage. When the area was searched, the bag was found. There were 97 turtles inside. Forest department officials identified them as rare Asian black spotted turtles. The turtles have been handed over to customs officials who sent them to the forest department after necessary processing," a BSF officer of the South Bengal Frontier said.


The turtles seized are an Indian species that is in great demand in the international market. It is a medium-sized freshwater turtle from South Asia. Though it is known as an 'Asian' turtle, the colour varies from country to country. The rigid upper shell of 'carapace' ranges from reddish to dark brown and black and often has three yellowish ridges running along its length.


The underside or 'plastron' is a uniform brown with a light trim around the edge. The head of the Indian black turtle may have orange or yellow spots. The intensity of these spots varies between the six sub-species. The Asian black spotted turtles are also known as the Bengal black turtle, black pond turtle, Burmese black turtle, Cochin black turtle, Parker's black turtle and Sri Lanka black turtle.


"In some places, these turtles are hunted for their meat. Elsewhere, they are exploited for the pet trade. These threats are more severe in countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar. In these countries, the animal is highly endangered. The species is also threatened in western Thailand where the major threats are hunting and loss of habitat. In certain south-east Asian markets, these turtles fetch a price of $2,000 a piece. This is the biggest seizure or rare Asian black spotted turtles in recent times," a forest department official said.