EDITORIAL - Threats to wildlife
(The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2016 - 9:00am

The best that can be said about the latest scandal to hit the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is that the suspect was caught. Gerald Bravo, a member of the Office of Transportation Security at the NAIA, has been held on charges that he tried to send 11 tarsiers, 11 snakes, 11 monitor lizards, eight sailfin lizards, and two types of owls to Japan.

NAIA Customs personnel found the animals last Thursday in Styrofoam cases declared as aquatic plants. It is fortunate that the tarsiers, nocturnal creatures that do not thrive in captivity and dislike even being touched, survived the smuggling attempt. Officials said it was not the first time that Bravo is believed to have engaged in rare wildlife trafficking.

Bravo, however, is not the only one who should be held responsible for the attempt. People who trap endangered wildlife for profit also need close watching, with local government units taking the lead in vigilance.  Classified as near-threatened, the tarsier has become a symbol of Bohol and is a top tourist draw in the province, together with the Chocolate Hills. Wildlife advocates have set up sanctuaries in Bohol where the tarsier can roam in its natural habitat.

Local governments must mobilize the barangay network and encourage community participation in protecting wildlife in their natural habitat. Wildlife traffickers cannot thrive without local accomplices. How did a Chinese boat crew, for example, collect thousands of pangolin or scaly anteater without the help of locals? The boat, which ran aground in 2013 in Palawan’s Tubbataha Reef, was found with thousands of cleaned and frozen pangolin meat, most of which surely came from the forests of the province.

Palawan, Bohol and several other provinces are reaping the benefits of eco-tourism. Residents understand the importance of their role as stewards of their natural bounty. Prosecution of Bravo for violation of environmental laws is not enough; his accomplices in the places where the wildlife originated must also be identified, caught and penalized.

 

BOHOL BRAVO CHOCOLATE HILLS GERALD BRAVO LOCAL NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT OFFICE OF TRANSPORTATION SECURITY PALAWAN PROSECUTION OF BRAVO TUBBATAHA REEF WILDLIFE
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