Indian Star Tortoise: The Indian star tortoise is considered to be a symbol of good luck. It is also believed to hold great value in traditional eastern medicine and its meat is considered a delicacy in other places, thus making it a highly coveted option for poachers looking to make a quick buck. Every year, tens of thousands of star tortoises are poached from the wild and smuggled via railway, airplanes, or even ships nationally and globally. There is also a high demand for Indian Star tortoises in the exotic pet trade as they have a unique star-like radiating pattern on their carapace (shell).
This species is protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At the 2019 CITES summit, they were moved from Appendix II to Appendix I status after a vote by a majority by nations participating in CITES. While hopes soar that these measures can provide more protection to the tortoise both in India, where it’s illegal to own or trade them commercially, and internationally, worries persist due to the recent spike in the trade surrounding the species.
Wildlife SOS has successfully released 51 Indian star tortoises that are part of our Indian Star Tortoise Repatriation Project into their native habitats and has been monitoring them through a unique and innovative satellite telemetry study. These star tortoises were confiscated by authorities in Singapore, luckily before they were put on the black market to be sold as pets or food.
As a part of the research study, factors like health condition, body weight, behaviour patterns, adaptation to wild foraging etc are also being documented. The research team also tracks and monitor the movements and ranging patterns of the tortoises.