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Slow and steady: Here’s how Delhi airport plans to catch tortoise smugglers Aug 30, 2017 12:52 IST

by August 30, 2017 General

With an estimated 10,000 tortoise of different species smuggled to China and Thailand, customs and security personnel at Delhi airport are being trained to detect reptiles and check trafficking. Customs officials said since Delhi is the biggest and busiest airport of the country, sensitization of all the enforcement agencies is being conducted to prevent wildlife trafficking.

“The reptile is used to make soup and some species are smuggled as people like to keep them as pets. Most of the smuggling happens from Unnao and Bareily of Uttar Pradesh. From there, they are taken in large numbers to either Lucknow or Delhi airport. The screeners need to be trained since these animals are smuggled in check-in luggage,” said a customs official.

Officials of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), who scan the hand baggage of passengers, were also trained to identify the image of tortoise as it would appear in an X-ray machine.

“Smuggling happens through ports also. Smugglers usually take road route to take it to Kolkata. It then lands up in Bangkok via Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia. At Chennai airport, there have been cases when tortoise were caught. But at the metro airports, seizures are negligible and reason for this could also be the untrained staff, who are unable to detect it,” the official added.

Customs officials said wildlife smugglers can also be caught through profiling. The department has prepared a list of passengers frequently travelling to Beijing and Bangkok. The help of a dog squad will be taken to detect the smuggling of reptiles.

“Delhi airport is mostly used as a transit point since chances of smuggling tortoise from here is less. But now, we will be extra cautious,” the official added.

On Tuesday, a team of wildlife crime control bureau informed about different trends of wildlife trafficking to officials of Immigration, airport operator, CISF and customs.