Two men were caught with two bags filled with Indian Star tortoises at Esplanade bus stand on Thursday.
The men, identified as Dinesh Kumar Velappan, 21, of Chennai and Moheshraj A.D., 24, of Tiruvannamalai, were about to catch a bus for Siliguri, when people at the bus stand spotted something moving inside two bags and alerted the police.
“Some people spotted movement inside the two trolley bags that two men were carrying. Suspecting that there was some living creature inside, they immediately informed the police,” said an officer in Lalbazar.
Officers from Maidan police station reached the spot and found that the bags were full of small tortoises.
Upon being questioned as to why they were carrying these reptiles, the two men allegedly failed to provide any satisfactory response.
“They said that they were taking them to Siliguri from where they would have been smuggled to Thailand. There is a great demand of these tortoises in that country,” said an officer.
Both the accused have been charged under sections of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The 509 tortoises were handed over to the wildlife department.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature website lists the Indian Star tortoise and the Spotted Pond Turtle as “vulnerable” in India.
A forest department officer said an Indian Star tortoise could fetch between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000 in the grey market, depending on its size and age.