- India accounts for 29% of black spotted turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) seized from across seven countries in South Asia, states a recent report by TRAFFIC, an international network monitoring trade in wildlife.
- Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species, the black spotted turtle or spotted pond turtle is native to South Asia, and a heavily trafficked chelonian. The medium-sized freshwater turtle has a black shell with yellow streaks. The species was once smuggled for its meat and is now sought after as an exotic pet.
- The report titled ‘Black Spotted Turtle Trade in Asia II: A Seizure Analysis’ records seizures of 10,321 specimens in 53 instances across seven countries between April 2014 and March 2016.
India is followed by Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand (1,995 specimens or 19%) and Hong Kong (1,775 specimens or 17%), followed by Bangladesh (1,197 specimens or 12%). The remaining specimens were seized from China, Pakistan and Singapore.
- In India, the species is distributed across the north, northeast and a few parts of central India in States such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. But an analysis of the trade route places Chennai as an important centre for the trade.
- Bangladesh capital Dhaka “is in closer proximity to the Indian Black Spotted Turtle trade hotspots than most large Indian cities and may therefore function as a regional collection centre,” the publication states.
- The report also highlights that 47% of the seizures involved smuggling via commercial flights. Of the 55 suspects arrested for smuggling black spotted turtles, the number of known convictions were only 20, a phenomenon that experts described as lacunae in the preparation of cases, and in procedural lapses in prosecution.
- Apart from increasing public awareness, the report emphasises the need for better law enforcement and cooperation among international authorities.