By Ruth T. Rodriguez
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 12 (PNA) — Unscrupulous wildlife traders have found a new lucrative species in the endemic predatory arthropod scorpions and critically-endangered Philippine freshwater turtles in Palawan, according to the Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (WTMU) of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).
PCSDS spokesperson Alex Marcaida told the Philippines News Agency (PNA) Wednesday afternoon that on June 9, their WTMU team in the northern Palawan town of El Nido recovered an abandoned bamboo crate and a box of sardine cans with 47 Philippine freshwater turtles and 160 pieces scorpions – all live at their pier of said town.
Marcaida believes the live arthropods and small forest reptiles were supposed to be shipped to Manila via a small transport vessel in El Nido, but were left abandoned after the unidentified owners could not get past the strict monitoring of the PCSDS against wildlife trafficking and those who perpetrate them.
“The crate containing the freshwater turtles, which are by the way critically-endangered species, were just left abandoned at the pier with the scorpions. The scorpions… we are surprised that they’re collecting them now in Palawan. We know that in the international illegal market for wildlife and pet traders they can fetch high prices like the beetles, but this is really the first time that we were able to recover such a large number of freshwater turtles and scorpions,” Marcaida told the PNA.
He added that although there are mystical beliefs that the sting of the scorpion has healing, or medicinal wonders, in Chinese medicine, they didn’t think the arthropods could fall prey to the illegal wildlife traders.
“They’ve found a new species that can be a lucrative source of income for them, and sadly, these are arthropod species that are very important to the balance of our eco-system, and their collection must be protected because they can dwindle fast,” Marcaida added.
The freshwater turtles, on the other hand, are critically-endangered reptile species that face very high risk of extinction in the wilds, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Also known as Philippine forest turtle, Philippine pond turtle, Palawan turtle, or Leyte pond turtle, (Siebenrockiella leytensis) is a species of freshwater turtle endemic to the Philippines. Despite the latter’s common name, it does not occur in the island of Leyte but is instead native to the Palawan island group. (PNA)