Philippines nabs wanted online wildlife trader
Manila, Philippines, 13th September 2019—A wanted online wildlife trader who has eluded Philippine authorities for several years has been caught in the capital city in a buy-bust operation that led to the seizure of 13 unlicensed wild animals from his residence.
The National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Philippine Operation Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade (DENR-POGI) made the arrest and seizure as the man had traded wildlife on the internet without the necessary permits.
Wildlife seized included three Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus, two Eclectus Parrots Eclectus roratus, six African Spurred Tortoises Geochelone sulcata and two Green Iguanas Iguana iguana.
The NBI told press that the trader had been elusive as he would cancel transactions if he became suspicious of his buyers.
Media also quoted Atty. Eric Nuqui, chief of the NBI's Environment Crimes Division saying that tracking the trader down took three years. The trader, believed to have begun trafficking wildlife online in 2014, reportedly refused to meet his own customers and would only accommodate his most frequent clients.
The man is expected to face charges for illegal possession and sale of wildlife under Republic Act No. 9147 which carries a maximum penalty of PHP30,000 to PHP300,000 (USD584 to USD5,843) with imprisonment of 2 to 4 years. The seized wildlife will be cared for in the rescue centre of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) in Quezon City.
The social media group where the suspect had offered wildlife for sale and was an administrator has since become inactive and archived.
Catching illegal online traders is like trying to snatch shadows, so this is a big win for the Philippine authorities, and we congratulate them. This case should also serve as motivation for all Southeast Asian wildlife enforcement agencies that are grappling with the scourge of online wildlife trafficking. Persistence does pay off. TRAFFIC hopes this case will make others think twice about trading wildlife online illegally.
Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Director for Southeast Asia.
Wildlife trafficking online thrives in the Philippines; a TRAFFIC study over a three-month period in 2016 uncovered 2,245 unique posts offering live reptiles representing 115 taxa and a minimum of 5,082 individual animals in 90 social media groups.
In 2017, based in part on findings from this study, the BMB in collaboration with national authorities including the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted numerous arrests of suspected illegal traders in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pangasinan, and Cebu.
This arrest comes just over a year after another high-profile arrest of an online wildlife trader caught for attempting to sell two hornbills and for illegal possession of two Brahminy Kites Haliastur indus. The man had been under surveillance by wildlife law-enforcement agencies prior to his arrest for selling illegally-caught native birds in various social media groups.