A man was locked in a 30-minute tussle with two men off Moukhali village, close to Canning station, in South 24-Parganas over a turtle on Friday night.
Uttam Sardar, 38, was riding a bike when he saw the men on a road off the village, about 6km from the station. One of them was holding the turtle in his hands. They had found it by the roadside and wanted to butcher it for meat. Sardar wanted to save the turtle.
Trading in and killing turtles is banned but turtle meat, considered a delicacy by many, continues to be sold in markets across the state, especially in North and South 24-Parganas, and Howrah.
Sardar’s hometown is no exception. Turtle meat is sold on the sly in markets. Turtles are commonly found in wet farmlands and once spotted, usually end up as meat on a plate.
Sardar, a driver in Calcutta by profession, was returning home on Friday night when he met the men with the turtle.
Sardar kept requesting them to let go of the turtle — later identified by forest officials as an Indian flap-shell — but they were unwilling to budge.
It took Sardar almost half an hour to persuade the two. At one point, a heated argument broke out and Sardar threatened to call police and forest officials. His unrelenting pursuit worked and the two men handed the turtle to Sardar.
He came home and kept the turtle in a rice pot with water. He had the contact details of some volunteers of an NGO that had conducted an awareness camp on animals found commonly in human habitats. He alerted a member. On Sunday, members of the NGO visited his place and took the turtle.
On Monday, the turtle was handed over to the forest department for releasing it into a suitable habitat.
“There are so many things to eat. Why kill something that is endangered and protected by the law,” Sardar told Metro.
“The men who caught the turtle first thought I was joking with them. It took them a while to realise I was serious,” Sardar, who goes to an apartment in Ajaynagar, off the Bypass, for work every day, said.
“Turtle meat is commonly eaten in the area. Sardar’s act shows regular conservation outreach campaigns in the area are producing results,” a volunteer of the Human and Environment Alliance League said.
Sardar had contacted this volunteer.
He has been riding a bike to the city and back as the suburban train services are suspended.
In August 2019, a group of friends driving back to the city from a West Midnapore village saw a turtle on the road. Some residents, too, had spotted it and wanted to kill it for meat.
The friends managed to prevail upon the residents, who agreed to hand over the turtle to a team of forest officials.
In May 2018, an 11-year-old boy who found a turtle on sale at a market near Howrah’s Sankrail had persuaded his father to buy it before handing it over to forest officials.
“Conservation has to be a people’s cause. It is encouraging to see common people coming forward to save animals,” a forest official in Calcutta said.