A recent report by TRAFFIC says India accounts for 29% of black spotted turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) seized from across seven countries in South Asia.
Countries occurrence: Bangladesh; India; Nepal; Pakistan
In India, the species is distributed across the north, northeast and a few parts of central India in States such as West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Meghalaya.
The medium-sized freshwater turtle has a black shell with yellow streaks.
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra fall completely out of the distribution range of the species, it proves that these States are used as trade routes. Seizure data indicates that black spotted turtles are transported to Chennai by car or train, and subsequently smuggled to other parts of the region.
Chennai has been identified as a major transit hub for illegal international trade in the Indian star tortoise, another species smuggled in large numbers. The report describes the India-Bangladesh border, part of the species’ natural range, as another hotspot for trade in the black soft-shelled turtle.
The species was once smuggled for its meat and is now sought after as an exotic pet.
Of the 55 suspects arrested for smuggling black spotted turtles, the number of known convictions was only 20, showing lacunae in the preparation of cases, and in procedural lapses in prosecution.