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Friday, February 3, 2017

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ON JAN. 14, sacks of endangered species from Bacolod City loaded into MV St. Francis Xavier were confiscated at Pier 4 of the Manila North Harbor. They included an undetermined quantity of dried seahorses declared as “scrap plastics” in the cargo manifest, pangolins and sea dragons.

This is an outrage. The government must step up its efforts to combat rampant wildlife smuggling. The illegal trade in wildlife threatens endemic Philippine species and could lead to biodiversity loss. There must be zero tolerance for the illegal wildlife trade which, according to the United Nations, erodes the Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving species to the brink of extinction.

We are alarmed by reports that some areas in southern Philippines are still being used as entry or transshipment points for illegal trade of wildlife species such as exotic birds, cats, seahorses, tortoises and marine turtles. According to the Philippine Center for Terrestrial and Aquatic Research, the multibillion-dollar black market continues to flourish globally, with the Philippines becoming a major player particularly in the trade of amphibians and reptiles.

For example, the Philippine forest turtle endemic to Palawan is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In June 2015, at least 3,900 of these freshwater turtles were recovered from a warehouse in Bataraza town in Palawan, the biggest haul of wildlife in recent years.

The full force of the law must be applied on all wildlife smugglers. There can be no excuses in not doing enough to stop the trade in endangered flora and fauna. Authorities must crack down on pet shops that sell endangered animals and guard all our ports and gateways.

The Philippines is a mega diverse country, but it is also one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, with a large number of species either endangered or threatened of extinction. There needs to be stronger convergence among government agencies and local government units and collaboration with the private sector, civil society and citizens to protect our wildlife species.





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