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Pratik Salunke and Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai: Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) officers intercepted two men with
United Arab Emirates (UAE) passports carrying 199 endangered tortoises and turtles in four checked-in bags on Thursday night. A case has been registered against the two men, who are cousins.
Marwan Ali Hassan and Sultan Ibrahim Ali Alfaqi bought the protected animals in Mumbai and were planning to smuggle them to the UAE. At the airport, they pretended to be working for the Dubai police but could not produce any IDs to prove this, a source said.
Their bags contained 197 Indian star tortoises, which are protected under Schedule 4 of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972, and two spotted black pond turtles, which are even more endangered and protected under Schedule 1 of the WPA.
An official said the animals had been carelessly stuffed into the four bags. “Such smuggling harms the animals and many die en route. The two men said in their statements that they had bought them from a man at Crawford market who agreed to lower the rate if they bought in bulk,” the official added.
A source said these tortoises and turtles, which are found in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are in high demand in the UAE. “They claimed they wanted to keep them in their farmhouse but the quantity suggests they were meant for trading,” said the officer.
Officials in the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) said the two men were handed over to the Thane forest range of the state’s forest department.
“The accused will be presented in court on Saturday and tried under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 as the two turtles are protected under Schedule 1 of the act,” said M Maranko, regional deputy director, WCCB.
A source told Hindustan Times that officials from the UAE consulate in Mumbai demanded that the men be deported and tried in a Dubai court.