Shocking scale of illegal trade in Indian star tortoise uncovered;
Over 55,000 star tortoises illegally collected from just one “trade hub” in south India in one year, study found.
The Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a little-known, but common, victim of illegal wildlife trade. In 2014, at least 55,000 wild tortoises were poached from just one “trade hub” in southern India, a recent study published in Nature Conservation has uncovered.
“We were most shocked at the sheer scale of the illegal trade in this species,” Neil D’Cruze, lead author from the University of Oxford and Head of Research at World Animal Protection, UK, told Mongabay. “A great deal of suffering is involved too — stuffed into sacks and suitcases, cracked shells stress and associated disease is rife and many do not survive the arduous smuggling process.”
The Indian star tortoise is popular as a pet and a spiritual symbol, largely because of its striking shell that has a star-like radiating pattern of yellow and black. However, no one had taken a closer look at where the tortoises were coming from, D’Cruze said.