Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 14 (PTI) Over 100 wild tortoises, which were meant to be smuggled to Tamil Nadu, have been seized from three women train passengers in Thrissur district.

Acting on a tip off, police carried out a check in a Chennai-bound train and seized the species from them yesterday.

The women, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, had boarded the train from Alappuzha with a basket full of wild tortoises, police said.

The seized creatures and the smugglers were handed over to the Wildlife Department personnel today.

Wild tortoises are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Meanwhile, animal rights groups alleged that the latest incident showed that Kerala was becoming an export hub of tortoises of wild species.

Noted animal rights campaigner Heritage Animal Taskforce charged that many hotels in the southern part of the country offer various types of dishes made of these protected species.

“Both the forest and public health departments take no penal action against this type of wildlife crime committed by the mafia having nexus between political parties which control the hotel business in south India,” V K Venkitachalam, Secretary of the Task Force, said.

He also said they had sent a letter to the Environment and Forest ministry, seeking strict and immediate penal action against those who are involved in these types of crimes.

The outfit also demanded immediate translocation of the species into their natural habitat under the supervision of the wildlife crime control bureau.