Bangladesh has become the source of providing endangered Indian flapshell turtles to markets in Meghalaya’s Garo hills.
Indian flapshell turtles need to be protected as these are categorised in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act. Selling, buying or killing them is an offence.
Incidents of smuggling turtles from Bangladesh to Sibbari in South Garo Hills are on the rise. Three Indian flapshell turtles were seized on Thursday from Murry Marak, a fish vendor, during a raid on the Sibbari market, stated The Telegraph.
A forest and wildlife official said the illegal trade of endangered turtle species had been on along the Bangladesh border and Sibbari was one of the most popular markets for Indian flapshell turtles.
A forest official admitted that smugglers from Bangladesh were supplying the turtles to Garo hills. Marak confessed that she had bought the turtles from a Bangladeshi named Abdul. According to Marak, Abdul regularly supplies turtles to select vendors in Sibbari market. Marak was caught red-handed while selling the turtles to a forest official who posed as a buyer.
Forest range officer of Balpakrem National Park division, C.G. Momin, said the accused would be prosecuted under the Wildlife Protection Act and measures would be initiated to tighten vigil along the borders to stop illegal wildlife trade.
Investigations also revealed that most of the fish and vegetable vendors are involved in the sale of turtles. According to Momin, the Bangladeshis catch the turtles from rivers and bring these in utensils to sell to fish vendors or customers in Garo hills.
According to Momin, while the price for 1kg of turtle meat is Rs 250 in Bangladesh, in Sibbari market the price is Rs 350 a kg. The price escalates once these are smuggled to other parts of Meghalaya.
Kamal Medhi, the spokesperson for Samrakshan Trust, an NGO, today said the trust, along with the forest department, (BNP division), had been taking the initiatives to detect sale of turtles.