The lorry in which they are being smuggled overturns near Anakapalle

An accident on the highway on the outskirts of Anakapalle, 40 km from here, in the early hours of Thursday brought to light illegal transport of more than 400 Indian flap shell turtles, which are listed as a Schedule I species under the Indian Wild Life Protection Act.

The turtles, packed in 39 gunny bags were placed underneath a load of fish in a van having West Bengal registration number. The van overturned while negotiating a curve and the load of fish and bags containing turtles fell out. The driver and cleaner of the van fled the scene.

Traffic police collected the bags of turtles, some of which had crawled out, and sent them to the Zoo Park here. A case has been booked and investigation is on.

The turtle flesh and the shell are most sought after. Though the turtle is mostly consumed in West Bengal and North Eastern States and is reportedly sent across to Burma and some other countries, the delicacy is reportedly served in some restaurants in this area too. The load of turtles hidden under the fish, is suspected to be coming from East Godavari. “The flap shell turtles are also called mud turtles and found in ponds, tanks, and steams. They need moisture all the time and can’t bear humidity. All the turtles (recovered from the van) have survived. Rains during the last two days might have provided them the needed moisture,” Zoo Park curator G. Ramlingam told The Hindu. The turtles must be immediately provided the conditions amicable to them and are being produced before a magistrate in Anakapalle to get the court’s permission to release them into their natural habitat as early as possible, he said.

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