For the first time, Wildlife SOS and the Karnataka Forest Department rescued 51 endangered Indian Star Tortoises from smugglers with the help of satellite tags fitted on the animals to track their survival and brought them home in Bengaluru. These were repatriated from Singapore following epic efforts made by the two agencies with the support of the government agencies in Singapore and ACRES using the unique and innovative satellite telemetry study of the species.
After several months of negotiations and approvals from Singapore and the Indian government agencies, these tortoises were found fit for transport and flown down to their home ground. Upon completing a mandated quarantine period, these animals were transferred to a soft release site where a team of researchers and biologists from Wildlife SOS monitored their health status and continued to study their behavior patterns to ensure that they qualify for release into the wild.
Kartick Satynarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS said, “The Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka Sanjay Mohan not only allowed us to fit these satellite tags, he also made extra efforts to rescue and release these tortoises going to Singapore.” Dr Arun A Sha, director-research and veterinary operations, Wildlife SOS explained that Star Tortoises were first released in a specially designed enclosure as a part of the soft release procedure to prepare the animals for the final release into the wild. This was a crucial time as we had to allow the star tortoises to get acclimatised to the transmitters on their backs. This project will help us study their feeding ecology and to identify their preferred microhabitats in this region.
Sanjay Mohan, PCCF (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Karnataka said, “This is the first time this species is re-introduced in the wild and survival monitored using satellite tags. This study will help pave a path for future re-introduction efforts in the state. ”
About Indian Star Tortoise
Indian star tortoise (Geochelone Elegans) is protected under Indian law and listed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). Yet it is one of the most trafficked tortoise species in the world, in the pet trade, for meat and body parts in traditional Chinese medicine. The rising demand is fueling illegal trafficking of tortoises from India to South East Asia.