In brief: Most Trafficked Species

In brief: Most Trafficked Species

  • More than 6,000 turtles and tortoises are smuggled every year through Malaysia, India, or Bangladesh.
  • Indian Star tortoise
    • Most trafficked tortoise
    • High demand as exotic pet
    • Found in abundance in scrub jungles across the southern peninsula
    • Smuggled from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka to Southeast Asia via Chennai
    • Covered under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act
  • Red-eared slider
    • Semi-aquatic turtle smuggled into India from China and Thailand.
    • A popular pet that is kept for ‘luck and prosperity’
    • Not covered under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 or the CITES convention
  • The Indian Pangolin
    • One of the most trafficked animals in the world, with about 10,000 pangolins traded every year
    • Endangered species under IUCN Red list
    • Hunted for their meat and scales used in traditional oriental medicine
    • According to a report by TRAFFIC, about 5,772 pangolins were captured in India from 2009 to 2017 for illegal trade
    • Kolkata and Chennai serve as the main export hubs
  • The Patagonian seahorse
    • Trafficked for its use in medicine
    • Vulnerable under IUCN Red list
  • African horned pit viper
    • Near threatened under IUCN Red list
  • Exotic Birds
    • Macaws, cockatiels, Amazon parrots, conures and cockatoos are some of the exotic birds
    • They are in demand as pets.



Why Chennai has emerged as the hub of illegal wildlife trade?

  • Transit hub
    • Connectivity to Southeast Asian countries and cheap airfare makes it an attractive transit point for wildlife traffickers.
  • Network in the city
    • Students who are lured for quick money serve as couriers.
  • High Demand
    • High demand for these species within the country for a range of factors, including use in medicine, prized collections, possession as exotic pets, growing demand for animal trophies in India etc.
  • Loopholes in the law
    • Many species such as the pit viper are not covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, or CITES.
  • Weak enforcement
    • Biggest challenge is the implementation of laws due to the shortage of staff.



In Brief: Steps to curb wildlife trade

  • Section 2(37) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, defines ‘wildlife’ to include any animal, aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat.
  • Wildlife crime can be defined as taking possession, trade or movement, processing, consumption of wild animals and plants or their derivatives in contravention of any international, regional, or national legislation.
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has included wildlife crimes in the list of Transnational Organized Crimes (TOC).
  • Two major wildlife crimes include
  • Hunting & poaching
  • Illegal trade


CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora)

  • India is a signatory to CITES which regulates international commercial wildlife trade.
  • CITES is a voluntary international agreement adopted in 1973.
  • It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • It seeks to ban trade in endangered species and to regulate trade of other commercially exploited species.
  • Appendix 1 lists species of animals that are critically endangered or threatened with extinction whose trade is prohibited under CITES.


 Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972

  • In India, The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, is the umbrella legislation for wildlife crime enforcement.
  • Important provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 dealing with wildlife crimes include
  • Chapter VI A – Illegal Trade
  • Section 51 – Punishments for certain offences
  • Section 39 – Wildlife is government property
  • Trade in over 1800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivative is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.



  • TRAFFIC is an international NGO working on trade in wildlife.
  • TRAFFIC is wildlife trade monitoring network and a joint programme of WWF and IUCN.
  • It works closely with the governments to help study, monitor and influence action to curb illegal wildlife trade.
  • In 2014 it launched the Wildlife Crime Initiative along with WWF, to tackle the global poaching crisis.
Section : Environment & Ecology