DENR bureau eyes repatriating wildlife seized in MM

MANILA The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) is looking into the possibility of sending back to Indonesia most of the wild fauna that law enforcers confiscated this week from Metro Manila pet stall owner, Abraham Bernales.

"We'll coordinate with Indonesian authorities regarding the matter," said Theresa Mundita Lim, director of the BMB, which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Lim is optimistic the repatriation would help reinforce BMB's warning against wildlife trafficking.

"We don't want people to profit from illegal wildlife activities," the biodiversity management official said in an interview Thursday.

The BMB said the estimated PHP50-million worth of wild fauna that authorities had confiscated from Bernales during a buy-bust operation consisted of 106 sulphur-crested cockatoos, 26 Moluccan cockatoos, 22 black palm cockatoos, 17 black-capped lories, 16 rainbow lories, seven red bird paradises, three large fig parrots, three emus, two wallabies, and 105 live and five dead sugar gliders.

Most of the wild fauna are endemic to Indonesia, thus the bureau is considering repatriating the animals there, said BMB wildlife resources chief, Josefina de Leon.

To simplify the repatriation, de Leon said the BMB also plans to return to Indonesia the confiscated wild fauna that are endemic there, and the others to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Australia.

Indonesia, PNG, and Australia would shoulder the repatriation costs, de Leon said.

Aside from the dead sugar gliders, Lim said four of the confiscated wild fauna had also died, and the remaining live ones are under the care of the BMB-managed National Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.

"We're trying to provide the best possible care for those animals," she said.

If repatriation isn't possible, Lim said the confiscated wild fauna would remain with the BMB and the DENR.

BMB's partners may extend assistance in caring for the fauna, she noted.

She said the animals are undergoing a health assessment and would be subject to screening for possible diseases, such as avian influenza.

In an earlier press briefing in Metro Manila, Lim raised the urgency for tighter monitoring and control at ports nationwide to help guard against further trafficking of wildlife and possible use of wild flora and fauna as illegal drug mules.

"Traffickers are becoming more creative, so there is the need for such measures," she said.

How the confiscated foreign species ended up in Bernales' possession shows traffickers' creativity in avoiding detection while transporting wildlife, she noted.

Aside from being traded, she warned wildlife might be used as mules by stuffing these species with illegal drugs to hide the contraband while in transit.

"Such are the concerns we must look into," she said.

Operatives of the BMB and National Bureau of Investigation carried out the buy-bust operation against Bernales.

The BMB said Bernales is facing both agencies' joint criminal charges for illegal trading and possession of wildlife species, as these acts violate the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

If found guilty, Bernales faces a penalty of at least four years' imprisonment and/or a fine of PHP300,000 for illegal trading of wildlife, the bureau said.

On top of that, he could also be imprisoned for at least four years and fined at least another PHP300,000 for illegal possession of wildlife, the BMB added.

Source: Philippine News Agency