A looming exotic reptile pet trade in India: patterns and knowledge gaps

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A. Pragatheesh
V. Deepak
H.V. Girisha
Monesh Singh Tomar


Commercial trade of exotic reptiles through CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in India is relatively recent (<2 decades).  Social media platforms and web portals are known to be used for pet trade.  Exotic pet trade is not legally regulated within India.  Therefore, little is known on the scale at which this trade is carried out in India.  We conducted a two-year study between 2018 and 2020 gathering information of exotic reptile pet trade online and summarized CITES documentation of the yearly import export records from 1976 to 2018 by CITES secretariat.  This manuscript provides a baseline for the extent of the trade, invasive species and the species traded in mainland India.  We found that there is an extensive trade of exotic reptiles in the country, comprising 84 species including the highly venomous species such as Bitis gabonica.  According to CITES records of 1976–2018, 98.6% of the reptile imports into India have not been reported to the CITES management authorities in India.  We also found some evidence of trade in protected native species through the exotic pet trade network.  Furthermore, some highly threatened reptile species including many listed in Appendix I of CITES are traded in India. 

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