(RDB) — It’s not often you hear about a poaching gang in Sri Lanka, but one of the leopard tortoises has been hooked up to a pole to have its head cut off.
“This is a sad situation that has come from foreign hunting into Sri Lanka,” said Dr. P.A.T. Chandy, Plantation Manager of Inland Fisheries in Sri Lanka.
But hunting is legal in Sri Lanka, and the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) is fighting to stop the illegal hunting of the “bad” termites.
The Leopard Tortoise, in its native habitat of Kenya, is considered a disease-free tortoise whose meat is considered a delicacy in certain Asian countries. But in Sri Lanka, up to 30,000 animals are killed each year for the pet trade.
The Leopard Tortoise was listed as Critically Endangered on the World Conservation Union’s Red List in 2005.
This year, there are only 22,000 left in the wild. But that figure, unlike the number of bad termites, depends on what happens in the next few weeks.
“The fate of these animals is linked to the international trade in these bad termites,” said Dr. Chandy.
Under the title of the “Leopard Tortoise Issue,” ICRC’s Manana Lebar, head of ICRC’s Sri Lanka office, met with parliamentarians last month to discuss the government’s response.
“We discussed the impact on the wild leopard tortoise population and its conservation in Sri Lanka from a global perspective. It was noted by the lawmakers that they also have concerns about the potential economic impact of the introduction of the bad termites and how it would affect citizens.”
ICRC is putting pressure on the Sri Lankan government to reduce the use of pesticides to eradicate termites from the plantations. Once the seeds are planted, it takes a few months to reach maturity and the plants are harvested every year to feed tigers and crocodiles.
The bad termites have even infiltrated rhino farms across Sri Lanka, where there are now 20 rhinos in captivity, protected by the rough termites.
“We recognize that rhinos have a bad reputation, but so do termites and we must not give the wrong impression on whether they should be regulated,” said Dr. Chandy.
Despite the efforts of the Sri Lankan government, the majority of illegal poaching of the Leopard Tortoise is occurring in neighbouring India.
“What we are doing to protect this poor beautiful creature from any future predators is also our responsibility,” said Dr. Chandy.
As soon as this article was published, the ICCR issued a press release stating that was no longer considered “Leopard Tortoise Issue” and that a separate NGO represented by former Congressman Bernie Sanders was involved.
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