How 129 Tortoises Seized at Mumbai Airport Won the Race Back Home
Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: iStock)
Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: iStock)

How 129 Tortoises Seized at Mumbai Airport Won the Race Back Home

129 Radiated tortoises and six Angonoka tortoises being smuggled from Madagascar to Nepal, with Mumbai as a transit point, were rescued and safely sent back to Madagascar as various agencies came together to repatriate the hapless creatures.

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SLOW AND STEADY! CARING FOR TORTOISES.

  • Four weeks ago 146 endangered Malagasy tortoises were seized at the Mumbai International Airport.
  • Customs and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) were shocked to see that all 146 were wrapped in plastic bags.
  • Angonoka (Ploughshare) tortoises are highly prized for their distinctive gold and black shells.
  • Smugglers can hope to fetch exceptionally high prices for these on the international black market.
  • Officials said the tortoises would be sent back to Madagascar in accordance with Indian laws.
Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: Himanshu Damle) 
Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: Himanshu Damle) 

The confiscated tortoises were moved to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary ahead of Panvel. The Government of Madagascar approached the Turtle Survival Alliance for triage (treatment and handing) and repatriation of these tortoises via Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as they are critically endangered and endemic to the region.

After receiving the information the India team of TSA immediately took action and sent it’s wildlife veterinarian Dr. Gowri Mallapur to help the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in assisting the case.

Since their arrival in Mumbai, the tortoises were being treated with care, they were being given a special diet to reduce the mortality and help them recuperate from stress.
Himanshu Damle, Veterinary Student, Mumbai veterinary College
NGOs arranging crates for the departure of the 129 Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: Himanshu Damle)
NGOs arranging crates for the departure of the 129 Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: Himanshu Damle)

Regional NGOs such as Nisarg Sakha, Panvel helped in taking care of the animals at Karnala and the Thane Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) provided logistic support at the beginning of the repatriation process.

Sadly 17 of these shelled creatures succumbed, 122 radiated tortoises and 7 Ploughshare tortoises were shipped back to their homeland soil of Madagascar on 18 April 2016.

Even airlines did their bit to make sure the tortoises reach home safe, Air Mauritius and Allied Aviation facilitated the shipping process and Air Mauritius also waived off the freight charges. Turtle Limited, a leading apparel brand provided support for treatment and husbandry during transit period of about a month.
Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: iStock)
Malagasy Tortoise (Photo: iStock)

According to reports, hardly 200 adult Ploughshare tortoises are left in the wild now. While scientists are struggling to keep them safe in their wild home, rampant pet trade and habitat loss have spelled doom for these tortoises.

Well, this time their story had a happy ending as various groups came together to ensure their safe return because sometimes it’s important to speak for those who do not have a voice.