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Southern States - Tamil Nadu-Chennai Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

320 star tortoises seized at airport

By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI DEC. 21. Personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on Saturday night seized 320 star tortoises at the Anna International Airport and arrested two men, including a temporary employee of the Indian Airlines.

The CISF sources said they questioned R.Narayanan at the departure hall around 11 p.m. after he was found moving under "suspicious circumstances" by the staff of the Intelligence Wing. Checking his baggage revealed the tortoises. The sources said Narayanan was acting as a conduit and that he was waiting to hand over the baggage to a passenger proceeding to Singapore by an Indian Airlines flight.

The baggage had reportedly been affixed with a security check sticker even though it did not pass through the check, a CISF officer said. Jothi Lingam, a temporary labourer of the Indian Airlines's security department, was arrested for allegedly conniving with Narayanan.

The Airport police said Narayanan managed to gain entry into the airport after producing a false ticket to security men on duty at the entry point. Further, he managed to get a "running security check sticker" even without sending the baggage through the routine procedures. Hence, cases under cheating, criminal trespass and various provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act had been registered against Narayanan at the airport police station. The police said they were also looking for three others in this connection. The animals were handed over to authorities at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park.

Officials said the tortoises were mostly taken from areas on the border of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. They are smuggled mostly to Singapore and Malaysia where there is a high demand for their meat. The tortoises would have fetched a price of Rs. 5 lakhs in the international market. Only last month, airport officials seized more than 500 tortoises. Nearly 3,000 star tortoises had been saved from being smuggled out of the country since August this year.

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