Manila, Philippines, 4th August 2020—Over 90 percent of the Philippine Pangolins documented to have been seized from illegal trade over the last two decades have been seized in the last two years of the period, says a new TRAFFIC study. The estimated equivalent of 740 Critically Endangered Philippine Pangolins were seized from illegal trade in the country between 2000 and 2017. However, between 2018 and 2019, an estimated 6,894 pangolins were seized suggesting a stunning nine-fold increase in pangolins seized between the two periods.
Emerson Y. Sy, Kanitha Krishnasamy
Seizures in the last two years also included the largest of Philippine Pangolin parts the country has ever seen—some 1,154.31 kg of pangolin scales seized in Palawan, in September 2019.
The higher figures in 2018 and 2019 also included a series of unusual rescues termed ‘retrievals’ in which individual live pangolins were found wandering the streets of towns in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
There were 18 retrieval incidents, all occurring approximately 600 km away from the natural range of the Philippine Pangolin. Manis culionensis which is found only in the Palawan faunal region and has the smallest range among the world’s eight pangolin species.
Ad hoc surveys between 2018 and 2019 made further discoveries of pangolin meat and medicines on offer in some cities.
The Philippine Pangolin faces continued pressure. From January until March this year, 20 Philippine Pangolins were confiscated from a trafficker in Palawan and three more retrieval incidents of smuggled pangolins took place on Luzon.
“While the rise in pangolin seizures speaks to successful enforcement action, it is also deeply alarming news for this rare animal,” said Elizabeth John, TRAFFIC Senior Communications Officer.
“With pressure continuing to mount, the only hope for the Philippine Pangolin is by stamping out the illegal trade through thorough investigations into poaching and trafficking cases, more prosecutions and solid convictions of traffickers,” said John.
Seizures during the study period were not limited to Philippine Pangolins. Authorities also confiscated over 10 tonnes of frozen Sunda Pangolins Manis javanica from a vessel that crashed into the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in 2013. The natural range of the Sunda Pangolin does not include the Philippines.
The authors of the new study Endangered by Trade: The Ongoing Illegal Pangolin Trade in the Philippines cited lack of investigations, few successful arrests and prosecutions, and low penalties among the greatest challenges in efforts to curb pangolin trafficking in the country.
The first conviction of pangolin traffickers outside Palawan Province occurred only in July 2019 when a court in Cavite Province sentenced three traffickers to three-months jail and a PHP20,000 (USD394) fine each for illegally transporting 10 pangolins.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently acknowledged that penalties under the Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act were not a deterrent to wildlife crime and have called for a mandatory minimum jail term of six years to be included, to ensure convicted offenders will be able to serve their sentence and will not be eligible for probation.
Philippine Pangolins seized from illegal trade in the Philippines between 2000 and 2017
Philippine Pangolins seized from illegal trade in the Philippines between 2018 and 2019
pangolin scales seized in Palawan, in September 2019
Elizabeth John Senior Communications Officer, TRAFFIC
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