Forest Department officials of the Wildlife division rescued about 2,000 Indian soft shelled turtles packed in 75 gunny bags meant for smuggling at Venkatapuram in Kalidindi mandal in the early hours of Wednesday.

The officials rescued the turtles and released them into Kolleru Lake at Atapaka Bird Sanctuary, said Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife) G. Anand.

On receiving information that the turtles were being transported, the mobile party striking force led by Kaikalur Forest Range Officer V. Ratna Kumar and Atapaka Bird Sanctuary Deputy Range Officer K.V.R. Prasad seized the turtles. The smugglers on getting wind of the raid abandoned the turtles and escaped from the scene.

Forest authorities took charge of the turtles only after conducting a ‘panchanama’ with the local Revenue and Police Department officials and then shifted them to the sanctuary.

Of different sizes

“The turtles are of different sizes, weighing between 200 gm and 2 kg. We suspect that the accused collected them from the local ponds in Kaikalur, Kalidindi, Mandavalli and Mudinepalli mandals and planned to shift them to Odisha or West Bengal,” said Mr. Anand.

“The Indian soft shelled turtles are a protected species under Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Some consume the meat and the shell is also used to make decorative items. Efforts are on to track the smugglers,” said Kaikalur Sub-DFO Shaik Khaleelullah.

To intensify patrolling

The Forest Department will intensify patrolling on the borders of Krishna and West Godavari districts to prevent smuggling of turtles from ponds and canals, said the DFO.

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