by Heather Lowe
On 15 May, 155 Spotted Pond Turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) were confiscated in the Auraiya district of India. The turtles were discovered as a result of a car crash involving the smugglers. The range officer from the National Chambal Sanctuary in Etawah, Mr. Suresh Chandra Rajput, was notified of the seizure and his team contacted the local TSA office for assistance with identification and placement of the animals. The turtles were then taken to the Etawah range office where they were counted, given water, and placed in containers.
After receiving official approval from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF-Wildlife) of Uttar Pradesh, Dr Rupak De, a team from the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department (UPFD) and TSA India then moved the animals from the city of Etawah to the Kukrail Gharial and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in Lucknow for triage and evaluation. All of the animals were placed in a quarantine pond and were individually examined for shell damage and other health concerns. The animals were then hydrated for a few hours before releasing them to a holding tank. All animals are currently being observed by TSA India biologists, who are glad to report zero mortality in the group thus far.
This species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. They are illegally trapped from throughout their range in the northern Indian subcontinent and shipped to south-east Asian countries for the pet trade. Mostly juveniles and sub-adult animals are captured since they are brightly colored.
The animals will be held until they are determined to be healthy and later released to a protected wetland of Uttar Pradesh. The TSA India team is thankful to the PCCF Wildlife for granting approval for the turtles’ transport on short notice and at odd hours. Additionally, the team would like to thank the Etawah Range Officer for assisting with the confiscation, and the Kukrail Centre team for their work on the ongoing triage.