Philippines nabs wildlife trafficker a second time
Manila, Philippines, 17th June 2020—An online wildlife trader caught and convicted in 2019 has been nabbed a second time in Manila, this time allegedly in illegal possession of several raptors.
The suspect was found hiding a White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster and a Changeable Hawk-eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus in the upper floor of his premises which he also used for his dog-breeding business.
The seizure and arrest took place on 6th June by the Philippine National Police – Sampaloc Police Station and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau enforcement officers following a buy-bust operation involving two Brahminy Kites Haliastur indus. The wildlife was offered online.
On 23rd August 2019, the same trader, infamous for being elusive and rarely meeting clients, was nabbed with 13 unlicensed wild animals in his residence including falcons, parrots, tortoises and iguanas.
He pleaded guilty and was convicted on two charges under the Republic Act No. 9147 for illegal possession and trading of wildlife species. He was sentenced to two years and a day in jail, as well as a fine of PHP40,000 (USD800) on 3rd September 2019. He paid the fine, but his jail sentence was not served while awaiting the court’s decision on his application for probation. If found guilty following this new arrest, he would have to serve the full two years on his previous sentence.
“With this case the Philippine authorities have shown both consistent monitoring and persistence and we congratulate them,” said Serene Chng, TRAFFIC Programme Officer.
“However, it’s a clear sign that current penalties need to be toughened to serve as an adequate deterrent.”
At present, the offence for illegal possession and sale of wildlife under Republic Act No. 9147 carries a maximum penalty of PHP30,000 to PHP300,000 (USD600 to USD6,000) with imprisonment of 2 to 4 years. However, this law is currently being revised and, in addition to tougher penalties, TRAFFIC urges Philippine authorities to consider introducing specific clauses relating to illegal online wildlife trade.
Wildlife trafficking and illegal online trade thrives in the Philippines; a 2016 TRAFFIC study uncovered thousands of wild animals advertised for sale online over a three-month period. Philippine authorities have also made numerous online wildlife trade-related arrests and seizures in the National Capital Region, Davao City, and Mindoro in 2019.
Just a day before the suspect was arrested, on 5th June 2020 three male suspects were arrested in Bacolod City for possession of over 300 native and endemic wildlife. The men were tracked after attempting to sell wildlife online and are currently facing a number of charges.