The bus conductor gestured towards the women waiting at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal, indicating towards the open luggage compartment where they were to load their bags before boarding the bus. The three women stood up, and lugged their six bags towards the waiting vehicle.
The policeman at the side looked on as people boarded the bus, sparing a passing glance for the women’s luggage.
The policeman took a few steps closer and squinted at the women’s bags. The slightest movement caught his eye as one of the three lifted a bag.
Intent on investigating further, the curious cop approached the women, and asked to search their bags. In the flurry of activity that followed, two of the women darted off, leaving the third behind to be apprehended by the quick-witted policeman. Meanwhile, another member of the police pried open one of the sacks that the women had dropped in their desperation to get away.
The rope tying it shut was opened, and more than a hundred turtles tumbled out, squirming and bewildered, desperate for water.
Action had to be taken quickly. The remaining poacher was apprehended by the police and the turtles were transferred into our custody to be cared for till their release was sanctioned by the court.
The Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctata) is poached extensively across its range for its meat, considered a delicacy in some parts of Southeast Asia. Parts of these reptiles are also sold illegally due to their supposed aphrodisiacal properties and for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
The turtles spent a few days under the watchful eyes and dedicated care of Wildlife SOS’ rescue team, before permission was finally granted for their release. The team watched as 123 turtles savoured their long overdue freedom, paddling excitedly into the cool waters of Keetham lake amidst the protected forests of the Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary of which the Wildlife SOS Agra Bear Rescue Facility is a part.