Illegal wildlife traders ‘under watch’ amid Covid-19 restrictions

Illegal wildlife traders ‘under watch’ amid Covid-19 restrictions

MANILA – Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu warned traders taking advantage of the internet for illegal wildlife trading that their activities are being monitored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Mobility restrictions may cause some deterrence to our wildlife enforcers, but these shall not stop them from implementing environmental laws to protect our natural resources,” Cimatu said in a news release on Wednesday.

Cimatu made the statement following the arrest of a certain Benjie Saunar for illegal possession and selling of two umbrella cockatoos (Cacatua alba) in a buy-bust operation conducted by the DENR’s Environmental Protection and Enforcement Task Force (EPETF).

The operatives also recovered a palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) from the suspect’s possession.

Saunar was monitored by the DENR- EPETF operatives to have been selling illegal wildlife species online.

He was apprehended in an entrapment operation conducted by the DENR EPETF, in coordination with the Manila Police District-Station 8 and Manila District Anti-Cybercrime Team, led by Maj. Reynaldo Salim at a gasoline station in Sta. Mesa, Manila last April 28.

During the operation, Saunar was not able to present any relevant permits such as a Certificate of Wildlife Registration or Wildlife Farm Permit and Local Transport Permit to support and prove that he is authorized by law to possess, transport, and trade wildlife.

The suspect is currently undergoing inquest proceedings at the Manila City Prosecutors Office and shall be charged with violation of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Protection and Conservation Act of 2001.

Section 23 of RA 9147 states that collection of threatened wildlife including the by-products and derivatives shall be allowed only for scientific, or breeding or propagation purposes, and provided that only the accredited individuals, business, research, educational or scientific entities shall be allowed to collect for conservation breeding or propagation purposes.

As of May 3, the wildlife species, along with other paraphernalia, such as the motorcycle and cellphone used by Saunar, are under the custody of the DENR-NCR Office, while awaiting the results of the case filed against the suspect. (PNA)

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