Friday, Mar 01, 2002
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CHENNAI, FEB. 28. Endangered marine wildlife such as organ pipe coral, sea cucumbers, Trochus and Turbo (shells) weighing 14 metric tonnes, illegally removed from coral beds in Andaman and Nicobar islands, was seized by the Wildlife officials at the Chennai port on Thursday.
The seized materials were valued at Rs. 20 to 25 lakhs in the foreign market.
According to the Deputy Director, Wildlife (Southern Region), R.Hemanth Kumar, the consignment was booked as betelnut from Andamans which reached the Chennai port six days ago. The organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica), which is red in colour, is categorised under Schedule I of the marine wildlife. Similar is the case with sea cucumbers (Holothuria scabra), say the wildlife authorities.
Packed in 141 gunny bags and covered with another gunny bag, the sea cucumbers are a delicacy in South East Asian countries. A kilogram of the same will fetch nearly Rs 400. The organ pipe corals are illegally removed from the reefs for their medicinal properties. It is believed to cure cancer, Mr Hemanth Kumar said. All the seized materials are fresh ones which could have been removed from the coral reeves just a week or ten days back, he said.
When contacted Zoological Survey of India Scientist and Officer-in-charge K.Venkataraman said that about 650 species of sea cucumbers are found world over. In India alone nearly 200 species are identified of which 75 species are reported from the shallow waters within 20 metres depth. In Andamans the sea cucumbers are chiefly found in Port Blair, he said. It grows to a length of 400 mm and weighs 500 grams.
The Trochus (Trochus niloticus) and Turbo (Turbo marmoratus) with massive shells possessing shiny iridescent pearl layers are used in the manufacture of buttons, lamp shades, necklaces, finger rings, cufflinks, lockets, ear drop studs, garlands, pen stand and ash tray. The shells are found on the submerged rocky or coral reefs at moderate depths. The foot of the species is boiled, dried and consumed.
Shells are collected from the depths ranging from 10 to 25 metres depth and kept in the net bag carried by the diver, Mr Venkataraman added.
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