The two men from Kolkata , in their mid 30s, were arrested from a railway station in Jaunpur, some 250 km from Lucknow.
“The two have admitted that they have been working for a poaching racket that operates from Kolkata, Nepal and several districts of Uttar Pradesh,” government railway police (GRP) inspector R.K. Singh told reporters in Jaunpur.
“The two have also confessed their involvement in smuggling wild animals’ skins, hides, antlers on several occasions in the past. The two have been into the illegal trade for nearly last six years,” he added.
According to GRP officials, some of the tortoises were alive and were handed over to the forest officials.
The officials were yet to ascertain the place from where the duo had brought the tortoises. “They are giving contradictory statements about it,” said Singh.
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,” Singh said.
Tortoises are killed for their meat and are used in preparation of some medicines, officials said.