TAMIL NADU

Sathyamangalam forests home to rescued star tortoises

The Wildlife Trust of India has found Sathyamangalam forests the most suitable for the species— PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Wildlife Trust of India has found Sathyamangalam forests the most suitable for the species— PHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

A total of 192 star tortoises that were seized while being smuggled out of the country have found a new home in the Sathyamangalam forests.

A total of 497 tortoises were confiscated in different incidents and handed over to Arignar Anna Zoological Park at Vandalur near Chennai for rehabilitation. The Forest Department, in association with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), carried out the rehabilitation process at the zoological park for a few months.

Out of the 497, as many as 240 tortoises survived and the department decided to release them into the wild. The WTI was asked to identify suitable habitats for the surviving tortoises.

The WTI conducted the study in the forests in Dindigul, Erode, Salem and Vellore districts. After considering the distribution range, availability of adequate food, water and other living conditions in the forests in these districts, the agency found the Sathyamangalam, Attur and Tirupathur forest divisions suitable.

“The WTI decided to release 70 per cent of the surviving tortoises in Sathyamangalam, which has the most suitable living conditions for the species. We decided to release them at four locations — Kottadai in Hasanur range, Sathivarabetta in Thalavady range and Kanchikarai and Kootaraipallam in Bhavanisagar range,” District Forest Officer N. Satheesh said on Monday.

The forest officials and WTI experts initially released the tortoises at two locations and observed their behaviour. “We wanted to do a final check on how the species find their new home. We observed their movement and found them doing good at the new habitat. Then we released the remaining at two other locations. We released 48 tortoises in each location,” Mr. Satheesh said.

Star tortoises, which have a huge demand in the international market as exotic pets, are found in dry areas and scrub forests. In Sathyamangalam, the species are spotted in Thengumarahada, Thalamalai, Thalavadi and Kadambur areas.

The Indian star tortoise is listed in Schedule IV of the Wild Life (Protection) Act and smuggling them is a serious offence.

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