Non-vegetarian freaks who delight in feasting on the flesh of endangered species of birds and animals, have now found a safe place to eat tortoise meat. Muthathi forest range, Induvalu in Mandya and K Shettahalli forest range in Srirangapatna have become favourite spots to eat lip smacking tortoise meat which belongs to species 'Indian fresh water terrapins'.
The poachers hunt wild tortoises found in nearby ponds, canals and bank of the rivers, which are then killed and sold to the relishers after the flesh is grilled on fire. Medium sized tortoises weighing around 5 to 10 kgs are found abundantly in these forest regions, and are most sought after for its medicinal value and taste. The tortoise are not suitable for export, but locally there is good demand for its flesh.
According to sources, quite a good number of foreigners visit the forest ranges, and there is demand for tortoise meat. The haunters sell the meat to the resorts they are tied up, as it fetches good money.
These tortoises emit a peculiar body odour which can be smelt even at a distance of 100 meters. Tracing this scent, poachers hunt down these tortoises. The soft skin of the tortoises is then cut open and roasted on fire. As soon as the hunters approach these tortoises they withdraw their heads inside the hard external shell that covers their body. The cruel hunters smash the tortoise body by dropping heavy stones on them.
Speaking to Express, Senior Forest officer, who dint wished to be named said that few years ago at Srirangapatna they had arrested poachers with 200 tortoise. The poachers diverting the river water into the huge pot holes created by sand dredgers along river Carvery in Srirangapatna and luring with food had hunting around 200 turtles.
'Primary diet of tortoise is they eat other animal waste, putting waste and diverting water they will be trapped easily. While, some use net, and some pot holes created by sand excavation. If no action is being taken to stop this act, the endangered species will soon have to be included under the extinct list,' added the officer.
When contacted, officials of the Department of Forests spoke of their helplessness to tackle the menace owing to the shortage of staff, which has turned out to be a big challenge for the forest department officials to protect wild life.
DCF Vasntah Reddy of Muthathi forest range said that appropriate action will be taken against the culprits. While, Mandya DFO Ramalinge Gowda said: 'Watchers have been deputed at Induvalu. Listed under the endangered species we are inquiring over the issue. The photos clearly indicated that it is indeed the flesh of tortoise, but the species cant be identified, as its completely burnt.'
Containing he informed that as there were several paddy field nurseries located in the vicinity of the Induvala forest ranges, it has become easy for the poachers to sneak in and hunt tortoises.
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'Indian fresh water terrapins'
D Rajkumar of the Wildlife Conservation Foundation looking at the photograph said that these tortoise are Indian fresh water terrapins or Indian black turtle (Melanochelys trijuga) found commonly through out India. Three lines found on the Carapace of the Trijuga, that is on the upper shield of the body.
'It is hunted using nets and by luring the animal using animal waste and droppings on which usually all terrapins feed. River water will be diverted using bunds and lured by hunters using food baits. Hunted for its soft meat and sold in the market stating that it has aphrodisiac values.'
'Protected under the Wildlife protection act , Classified as near threatened in IUCN red list. it is particularly threatened by hunting for its meat which is considered as delicacy and also due to pet trade,' he added.