By Alex J. Villanueva, Jr. (PNA)
ILLEGAL WILDLIFE trading in the Philippines entering the international market has become increasingly alarming, according to a senior programme officer of Traffic Southeast Asia (Traffic SEA).
”We are increasingly seeing illegal trade of wildlife animals travel from Palawan by fishing boats to Sabah and eastern Kalimantan area, both from Malaysia to southern China,” said Chris Shepherd of Traffic SEA, an advocate of wildlife protection, during a media conference held at the Legend Hotel recently.
Shepherd said wild animals travel illegally from country to country throughout Southeast Asia with relative ease and virtually all roads crossing international borders are utilized by smugglers, as border checkpoints are often weak.
Major air and sea ports in the region are heavily utilized by illegal traders, commonly using false declarations for their cargoes to pass through custom and other law enforcers, he added.
He noted that fishing boats from southern China are actively harvesting marine turtles in the province’s territorial waters and illegally exports them to consumers in the region.
”These marine turtles are found only Palawan, however, these sea creatures can be bought any time of the week from dealers in Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, and increasingly in Los Angeles and Colorado, USA,” he pointed out.
Another wildlife species being traded in the international market is the scaly anteater or pangolin, which has entered southern China market by tons, he disclosed.
The population of pangolin, locally known as “balintong,” is rapidly declining and Palawan is one of the few remaining homes in the region.
Shepherd recognized the province’s richness in wildlife species: Palawan monkeys, parrots, bearcats, peacocks, mongoose, porcupine and mouse deer, among others.
There are 323 species of wild life in this province, gaining for it the title “Haven of the Philippine Wildlife”.
He further said wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats to many species of fauna and flora especially in Southeast Asia where biodiversity is high and most of the tropical rainforests can be found.
In the three-day CITES and Wildlife Act Enforcement Training Workshop here from November 7-9, Shepherd is educating wildlife law enforcers and related agencies on the implementation national legislation like Republic Act 9147 (Wildlife Act) and CITES-Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to combat wildlife trafficking.
Traffic SEA, a wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. It is a joint programme of World Wildlife Fund and IUCN-The World Conservation Union.
The workshop, attended by 80 participants, was a collaborative effort of Traffic SEA, Katala Foundation Inc. and Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).