India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries of the world. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, it contributes about 8% of the known global bio-diversity. The rich bio-diversity is due to diverse ecological habitats, namely forests, grasslands, wetlands, coastal, marine and desert ecosystems. It has four bio-diversity hot spots – the Eastern Himalayas, Western Ghats, Indo-Myanmar landscape and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Conservation planning in India is based on the philosophy of identifying and protecting representative wild habitats across all ecosystems. For this purpose, the entire country has been divided into 10 bio-geographic zones, and areas of ecological significance in each zone have been declared as Protected Areas (PAs) under the Act of Parliament. There are 903 PAs covering 1,65,031 Sq. km (5.02 per cent of the total geographical area). Seven of these protected areas are also designated as Natural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO apart from Western Ghats which is comprised of several protected areas. Among these, Khangchendzonga National Park is India’s first mixed-criteria (Natural & Cultural) World Heritage Site.
Wildlife in India is under severe threat from global illegal wildlife trade networks. The main consumer markets are in China and South Eastern Asian Region, but certain wildlife and their derivatives are smuggled to the Gulf, Europe and North America. South Asian countries are mainly the transit points for Indian wildlife and wildlife articles to their final destinations. Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are the major transit points for the trade in wildlife body parts.