Mumbai is a major hub for trafficking of protected animal species and animal body parts, said a report by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).A first-of-its-kind report from the WCCB, which comes under the Ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC), said that 70% of the cases of seizures of such animals between 2012 and 2018 (till June) in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat were reported from the Mumbai metropolitan region (MMR). Forest officials, the police and the WCCB seized turtles, snakes, birds and animal body parts like skin, claws, nails and bones from the three states in that time period. Around 230 people have been arrested so far between 2012 and 2018 for offences under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.Experts tracking the illegal trade said Mumbai is a hub because of its connectivity. “Cities like Mumbai are collection and trade points for wildlife trade. Turtles are most in demand and one of the most targeted species in the international market as pets or for food in many parts of Southeast Asia,” said Saket Badola, head of TRAFFIC India, a global wildlife trade monitoring network. “Maharashtra and MMR is also the hub for smuggling of red sanders wood from Andhra Pradesh and agarwood from northeast India,” he added.The WCCB lists Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia as major destinations for Mumbai’s illegal cargo and countries along the Persian Gulf, apart from south-east Asia, as major suppliers. “Mumbai acts as a transit city for this illicit trade. It is controlled using the World Wide Web with major suppliers and distributors working online. Majority of the international trade however, takes place via flights rather than sea or land routes because the latter is more time consuming,” said M Maranko, regional deputy director, WCCB Maranko. Indian cities are a favoured hub for the trade because many of these smuggled animal species are protected under the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) but not banned from trade under Indian laws like Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.