The police intercepted the consignment in Ghaziabad on board the Kalka-Delhi passenger train.
At the time of the seizure, more than 100 birds and a dozen rabbits had died due to asphyxia. The rest, among them also the rare zebra finch, were safely recovered.
Government Railway Police (GRP) registered a case against unknown smugglers. The consignment was booked from Saharanpur by one Mohammad Fareed.
Police said they were informed by Aasima Sunil, a representative of People for Animals, Ghaziabad.
PFA activists sought the stoppage of the train and the rescue of the animals, but rail men pleaded helplessness. That was when Maneka Gandhi swung into action and got senior railway board members to order the stoppage of the train.
Late Tuesday evening, the train was stopped in Ghaziabad.
The brake van was checked and the consignment of animals was discovered.
The parcel was headed to New Delhi, from where it was to be transferred into some other train going to Kanpur, a police official said.