100,000 turtles sacrificed in ritual slaughter to celebrate Hindu festival
|Slaughtered for tradition: |
A Bangladeshi trader kills a turtle with a knife and
stick in the early morning hours in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Held once a year, and corresponding with the festival Diwali, sacrifices are made to Kali, the Hindu goddess of power. During Kali Puja, market streets are teeming with devotees who purchase and consume thousands of turtles.
One of the species found on Dhaka's markets is the northern river terrapin.
Around 25 individuals are known to exist, making it one of the rarest animals on earth. On paper it is offered the same level of protection as a tiger.
Another targeted species is the black soft-shell, which has only recently been officially been found in the wild and it has a single population in a pond in the region of Chittagong.
Even though many of the turtles are critically endangered and feature on Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, the slaughter is often overlooked by authorities.
The act has enraged conservation groups in India and abroad.
|Laid on the table: 100,000 turtles were butchered and |
their meat, limbs and organs were sold to customers to eat,
it is sole for between £6 to £37 per kilo
At Dhaka's Tanti Market, the turtles are butchered and their meat, limbs and organs are then sold to customers.
The meat sells for between $10 - $60 per kilo (£6-£37), depending on the species. Followers believe that by eating the turtle, they will take on its strength and longevity.During festival, the majority of Bangladesh's Hindu population consume turtle meat.
Businessman Sunil Kumar Bala commented: "We have been eating turtles during Kali Puja for a long time. It is a tradition that we will maintain even if the government tries to stop us."
The turtle trade offers a source of income to up to 30,000 people.
|Last one standing: A Bangladeshi trader displays a live turtle |
in turtle market in Dhaka during the Hindu festival
Hari, the longest serving trader of turtles in Dhaka's markets, estimates he has been responsible for killing around 20,000 tons of turtles. "If this this trade stops, many people's livelihoods will suffer," he said. "I have been doing this for the last 40 years, if you stop this now, what will I do?" Turtle conservationists, however, are up in arms. "The Kali Puja turtle market is a wildlife travesty of the worst kind," said Rick Hudson of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) in Fort Worth, US. "The brutality with which turtles are slaughtered is gruesome, shocking and an abomination of nature." Once the market concludes, the shells are cleaned, scraped of meat and then dried. The dried shell has multiple uses. It is processed and fed to fish and chicken.
The pharmaceutical industry uses it to make the containers of capsules for antibiotics and other drugs.
However, the majority of dried shell is shipped to south east Asia where it is used in traditional medicine. It is believed that consuming turtle shell increases virility. As night fell in Dhaka yesterday, the ceremonies began. During sacrifices to Kali, goats were beheaded and turtles impaled upside down on poles. As they tried to escape, their head and legs were chopped off.
|Graveyard of shells: a pile of turtle shells are piled on top of |
each other in Dhaka after the mass slaughter
|Mass slaughter: Bloodied shells compile on the ground |
after thousands of turtles are killed in the ritual
|Before the slaughter: |
Turtles pictured before being savaged for their mea