Indian star tortoises and hashish, which were to be smuggled to Sri Lanka from India were seized in two separate incidents.
Customs Preventive Division sleuths in Thoothukudi busted a drug trafficking ring and seized 24 kg of hashish, an extract of the cannabis plant, The Hindu newspaper reported.
The seized narcotic substance is valued at Indian Rs. 19.20 lakh. Based on a tip-off, the Customs team followed an autorickshaw, in which the narcotic substance, stuffed in a bag, was transported.
When the officials got closer to the auto, which was heading towards an isolated beach north of Threspuram, a person travelling in the vehicle alighted from it and sped away in a boat.
The officials picked up Ramesh, the auto driver, for interrogation. Preliminary investigations revealed that Ramesh picked up the drug trafficker at Anna Nagar here.
The seized narcotic substance was about to be smuggled to Sri Lanka on sea route.
Meanwhile, officers of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Forest Protection Squad seized over 2,500 Indian star tortoises from a person in Avadi in Chennai.
Based on a specific intelligence input, the DRI and the Forest Protection Squad of the Department of Forests conducted a joint operation that resulted in seizure of 2,515 live Indian star tortoises from the house of Thamim in Morai, near Avadi.
An official release said the mastermind along with two associates who were residents of Avadi and Ennore, illegally procured these endangered live species from various parts of the country and smuggled them to Sri Lanka.
So far, about 10,000 live tortoises and turtles were smuggled out by the gang through Rameswaram. The mastermind of the illegal trade is absconding.
The Indian star tortoise is covered by Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Appendix of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES). (Colombo Gazette)