Racing towards extinction
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.