Rac­ing to­wards ex­tinc­tion

Down to Earth - - THE FORTNIGHT -

THE IN­DIAN star tor­toise is steadily head­ing for ex­tinc­tion, says a study con­ducted by the UK-based an­i­mal wel­fare non­profit, World An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion. The tor­toises are famed for the star-like ra­di­at­ing pat­terns on their shells, which serve as a cam­ou­flage. How­ever, it is this same pat­tern­ing that also makes them pop­u­lar pets around the world. This has made the tor­toises the tar­get of a boom­ing il­le­gal trade. The poach­ers also ex­ploit a le­gal loop­hole since it is il­le­gal in In­dia to possess and com­mer­cially trade in star tor­toises, but not in Thai­land and other south­east Asian coun­tries. They are smug­gled in boxes hid­den un­der food items such as veg­eta­bles or fish. Many don't sur­vive the long and il­le­gal jour­ney and those who do sur­vive, suf­fer in con­fined spa­ces and may die pre­ma­turely from mal­nu­tri­tion, suf­fo­ca­tion or stress of con­fine­ment.

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