Anti-Poaching Raids Save 6 Indian Star Tortoises, 23 Aquatic Species

June 5, 2023 | By Shavya Arora
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In the relentless battle against wildlife poaching, Wildlife SOS yet again went an extra mile to save endangered species from becoming victims of illegal pet trade. Six Indian star tortoises and 23 species of aquatic animals were recently rescued from illegal trade in 2 separate rescue operations conducted in Vadodara, Gujarat.

Rescued and Recovered

The Wildlife SOS-GSPCA (Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) team in Vadodara received information about 2 trapped tortoises that were in the possession of a shopkeeper. A mindful local had reached out to the state forest department to convey the specific location of where the tortoises were held captive. Further investigation by our team revealed that the concerned aquarium shop had 4 other tortoises for sale. 

Six Indian star tortoises were found captive in an Aquarium shop in Vadodara. [Photo © Wildlife SOS] 

To ensure that the safety of the tortoises and the confidentiality of the operation were not compromised, the Wildlife SOS-GSPCA team sent out a dummy customer to the aquarium shop. As soon as the delivery of the tortoise was confirmed, the team of forest officers headed to the shop and caught hold of the shopkeeper. The Indian star tortoises were transferred to a safe location for urgent medical examination. 

Another similar raid was conducted in the house of a local resident in Vadodara. The individual was in the illegal possession of 23 different species of aquatic animals including starfish, coral, jellyfish, octopus, sea horse, mini shark and a few others in preserved chemicals. The resident had also kept 2 Indian star tortoises within the premises. This shocking discovery was made by a concerned individual who informed Wildlife SOS on its helpline. Keeping the urgency of the situation in mind, a collaborative effort was initiated by the forest department and Wildlife SOS. 

The forest department has filed cases against the 2 offenders under relevant sections of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and further investigation is ongoing.

A total of 23 species of aquatic animals and 2 Indian star tortoises were recovered from a house in Vadodara. [Photo © Wildlife SOS] 

Aquatic Life In Distress

The variety of species that were saved was astonishing, ranging from rare and exotic fish species to a threatened tortoise species. Each species was carefully identified and documented by Wildlife SOS. The captivating appearance of Indian star tortoises makes them unfortunate victims of wildlife trafficking. With distinct star-like patterns on its carapace (the hard upper shell), the Indian star tortoise is visually striking and aesthetically appealing. It is widely believed that these tortoises are bound to bring luck and prosperity, and the stars on their shells are symbolic of guidance and positive energy. Such irrational belief has increased their demand in the illegal market. 

 The Indian star tortoise is falsely believed to bring good fortune and is therefore massively targeted for illegal pet trade. (photo (c) Wildlife SOS/ Akash Dolas)

The tireless dedication and efforts taken by the forest department and Wildlife SOS contribute towards the conservation of wildlife and stand as a testament against illegal practices. The Indian star tortoise is the most trafficked tortoise species in the world, and rampant poaching of these tortoises has led to a severe decline in their population. Wildlife SOS has been actively involved in safeguarding Indian star tortoises. In collaboration with GSPCA, we have held several sessions to spread awareness among people that trading and keeping these animals as pets is illegal. Wildlife SOS has long assisted the forest department to conduct raids and rescuing animals trapped in wildlife trafficking. 

If you come across any animal in distress, please inform Wildlife SOS on the 24×7 rescue helplines in the following regions:

Delhi NCR: +91-9871963535
Agra and Mathura, Uttar Pradesh: +91-9917109666
Vadodara, Gujarat: +91-9825011117
Jammu and Kashmir: +91-7006692300/ +91-9419778280
Elephant Helpline: +91-9971699727

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Hotline Number | हॉटलाइन नंबर

Delhi NCT Region +91-9871963535
Agra Region (UP) +91-9917109666
Vadodra Region +91-9825011117
J&K Region +91 7006692300
+91 9419778280