Illegal wildlife trading rampant in Palawan

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 19 (PNA) — The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) expressed concern over rampant illegal wildlife trading being perpetrated by unscrupulous individuals in Palawan.

BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim said Thursday at the first meeting of the proposed Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and Staff that one of the centers of assessment in the province should be the actual population of the endemic and critically-endangered Philippine forest turtle (bakoko) and sea turtles (pawikan) that have been the subjects of illegal wildlife trading arrests and confiscations recently.

“This is should maybe be one of the focuses of assessments. How many is the actual population? But since the reach is limited; you can only see it (bakoko) here in Palawan, then the classification will always be endangered because if it disappears here, you will not see it anywhere anymore,” Lim said.

She said that whenever cases of confiscation of Philippine forest turtles come to their attention, their treatment would always be “sensitive” since it is one of the island endemics.

“It is alarming for us to find out that one illegal trader can get that many Philippine forest turtles and sea turtles. Where did they come from? We need to investigate further how that happened, and where the sources are because they (illegal wildlife traders) seem to know,” she said.

Lim was appalled, she said, about the report that over 4,400 Philippine forests turtles were confiscated in southern Palawan, and over 525 hawksbill and green sea turtles from a privately-owned resort in Roxas town in the north.

“They are apparently getting from different sources, and that is something we need to confirm, and hopefully stop completely. That is why, we are very much concerned in the national government,” she said.

The BMB director also lauded the PCSD for efforts to make confiscations in Palawan rather than doing it last-minute because in the past, the illegal wildlife traders would succeed in bringing them outside Palawan to Manila, and in even Hong Kong in the case of the Philippine forest turtles.

“Actually, efforts have improved in a way that confiscations are made here, not outside like before. In the past, they would reach Manila, and we would confiscate, or in Batangas. Sometimes in Hong Kong; it’s difficult to return them,” she said.

Lim explained that if the trading is stopped in Palawan, it is easier to re-introduce the wildlife to its habitat.

“We are hoping that efforts would be strengthened more against the wildlife traffickers,” Lim told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Lim also disclosed that illegal wildlife traffickers have gone “smart” since they now transport wild animals through unsuspicious routes, like Mindoro.

“Currently, we are carefully studying where they’re bringing them. They do not bring them directly; sometimes they bring them to Batangas.

In the Philippine Wildlife Act, the animals of Palawan, she furthered, should be monitored by the PCSD.

She also warned that the scaly ant-eater or pangolin should be monitored as its population is fast declining.

“We have to be strict in monitoring because this is a very gentle animal that can easily be caught,” Lim said. (PNA)