Malkangiri: Forest department officials on Friday rescued as many as 150 Indian soft-shell turtles during an illegal smuggling bid from MV- 65 village under Kalimela forest range in the district.
The smugglers managed to give a slip to the forest squad. However, the raiding team seized two bikes used by the anti-socials in the smuggling of the aquatic creatures.
According to reports, two persons reportedly belonging to Kalimela area had smuggled the turtles from Andhra Pradesh and were trying to sell them in tribal dominated villages in Malkangiri.
On a tip off, a special squad of forest officials carried out a raid in the MV-65 village. Spotting the forest team, the smugglers left their two-wheelers and the turtles before scurrying away towards a nearby forest to evade arrest.
A case has been registered in this connection at Kalimela forest range and a manhunt has been launched to nab the smugglers.
Experts say that turtle smuggling has become rampant in Malkangiri. The peddlers generally taking advantage of lockdown, manage to transport the reptiles from Andhra through water route.
River ‘Saberi’ which runs through the area has turned out to be safest route for them to transport the creatures from the neighbouring State.
A well-planned racket is operating behind the turtle smuggling, said local forest officials who continue their crackdown on the illegal trade.
Last year in June, forest officials had arrested four persons from MPV-83 and MPV-42 under MV-79 police limits in the district and recovered 43 turtles from their possession. The smugglers were selling the creatures at Rs 500 per kg in Motu forest range area.
The smugglers usually supply the reptiles to various eateries and markets in the district. A kingpin in the racket is operating from behind who is yet to be arrested, reports said.