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PCG seizes 22 live pangolins

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station in Coron, Palawan rescued on Monday evening 22 live anteaters, while another one was found dead on board a cargo ship bound for Manila.

PCG Palawan district commander Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista said the 23 anteaters, locally called balentong, were placed inside sacks that were left on top of the roof of the 116.72-gross ton cargo ship M/V Maria Lydia.

“The anteaters were found inside sacks. This is not the first time that we have discovered balentong, but not this many. Usually, the number of anteaters that we find ranges only from one to five,” Evangelista said.

“The anteaters are quiet animals. They are not like dogs that would bark loudly if they are threatened. The anteaters would just coil themselves if they feel threatened,” he said.

Evangelista said an informant tipped their station in Coron, Palawan about the presence of the balentong in the cargo ship at 10 p.m. last Monday.

The PCG personnel, accompanied by dogs from their K9 Unit, Marine Environment and Protection Unit (MEPU), and intelligence operatives, conducted a pre-departure inspection on the M/V Maria Lydia that was moored at the port of Coron.

It was during the inspection that they chanced upon the wild animals inside the sack.

The vessel’s captain, Menandio Fabul, was not on the ship at the time of inspection.

The PCG learned that the vessel was headed to Pier 2, Isla Puting Bato in Manila.

M/V Maria Lydia, owned and operated by JCAP Shipping Lines and with business address in Coron, Palawan, plies the Manila-Palawan route.

Evangelista said they confiscated the animals but no one was arrested.

“An investigation would have to be conducted to determine who are behind this act. Whoever would stake a claim on the animals would be slapped for violating Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” he said.

At 8:30 a.m. yesterday, the rescued anteaters, also called pangolins, were turned over to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) project development officer 1 Evarista Palanca.

Earlier this month, authorities discovered some 400 boxes containing dried and skinned anteaters, at the cargo hold of a Chinese fishing boat, F/B Min Long Yu, which ran aground in Tubbataha Reef.

Each box contained five or six anteaters, which are protected wildlife animals in Palawan.

But Evangelista ruled out any connection between the anteaters found on board the Chinese ship and those seen on the M/V Maria Lydia.

DNA testing

Meanwhile, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) said they can subject to DNA testing the pangolins seized from the M/V Maria Lydia.

PAWB director Mundita Lim said with proper coordination with authorities, the anteaters can also be examined, especially if tissues of these species have been saved.

Lim likewise bared that initial morphological assessment done by the PCSD and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed that the pangolins discovered on board the Chinese vessel F/B Min Long Yu consist of more than one species.

“Apart from being identified as native species, some may be Javanica but this is yet to be confirmed through the test to be done at the UP Institute of Biology,” said Lim.

She noted that Javanica could be from Malaysia, Indonesia or other Southeast Asian countries, while Culionensis (native) is unique to Palawan. – With Rhodina Villanueva

ANTEATERS

B MIN LONG YU

BUT EVANGELISTA

COMMODORE ENRICO EFREN EVANGELISTA

CORON

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

EVANGELISTA

EVARISTA PALANCA

PALAWAN

V MARIA LYDIA

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