The two men were nabbed Tuesday night in Naseerabad town of Rae Bareli, some 80 km from Lucknow. Two of their aides, however, managed to escape with sacks containing nearly 50 other tortoises.
‘The two have admitted that they work for a Kolkata-based team involved in wildlife trade of animals including leopards, peacocks and other endangered species,’ police inspector S.S. Gupta told reporters in Rae Bareli.
‘We are still interrogating them to ascertain the place from where the tortoises were brought,’ he added.
According to police, some of the tortoises were alive and were handed over to forest officials.
India has banned the trade of tortoises under the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act but the huge premium and lax laws are increasingly luring poachers to the trade.
‘A case under Section 9 (prohibition of hunting) and Section 49B (prohibition of animal trading) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 has been lodged against the two,’ Gupta said.
Tortoises are killed for their meat and are used in preparation of some medicines, officials said.