At least 20 tortoises were rescued during a raid by the forest department in Gajapati district on Monday.
As per reports, one person came out of the district fishery office and was going somewhere riding a bike. Suspecting something fishy, local people intercepted him and upon a search, they found he possessed the aquatic animals.
The residents immediately informed the forest department. Paralakhemundi ranger D V Sharma along with a team reached the spot and recovered the tortoises. However, the person carrying the animals managed to escape from the spot.
Local people alleged smuggling of tortoises from the district fishery office is a regular affair. While it has become a regular affair, the fishery department is looking the other way.
When contacted to verify the allegations, the staff at the office refused to say anything on camera. Local residents demanded stringent action against the people involved.
“Tortoises are being smuggled from the fishery office on a regular basis. The next day, they are sold to clients. Almost all the villagers are aware of this clandestine business,” said a local resident.
Another villager alleged, “The smuggling of tortoises is carried out more at night. Fish and fingerlings are also being smuggled out of the fishery office on a regular basis.”
When contacted, Paralakhemundi ranger D V Sharma said, “The tortoises were recovered from the fishery office campus. However, the smuggler managed to flee from the spot. We will launch an investigation and appropriate legal action will be taken against anyone found guilty.”
The recovered tortoises will be released in Ram Sagar, added Sharma.
(Reported by Adarsh Das from Gajapati , OTV )