EDITORIAL - Zero tolerance for wildlife trafficking

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol - The Philippine Star

The Philippines is not only among the most vulnerable to climate change, it is also among the most in need of help in protecting its wildlife. As World Environment Day is observed on June 5, the focus is on zero tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife. Environment advocates in the country are committed to this, but with limited resources, protecting wildlife is easier said than done.

Within its maritime territory, the country cannot adequately keep out foreign poachers of endangered species such as sea turtles and seahorses or prevent the harvesting of corals, the breeding ground for marine life. Inland, human activities are threatening wetlands, the natural habitats of a wide range of wildlife including crocodiles.

On land, wildlife traffickers collect pangolins, owls and large parrots, Bohol’s iconic tarsier, and even geckos for processing into aphrodisiac. Conservation efforts have improved the population of the Philippine Eagle, but in the wild, the raptor continues to be hunted down for sport. Flowers and trees are also considered wildlife, and the Philippines has many wild orchids and other flora facing extinction.

Wildlife trafficking is a global problem, which prompted the United Nations to make the campaign against it the theme of this year’s World Environment Day. Among the most vulnerable to wildlife trafficking are developing countries, which are home to endangered elephants, tigers, rhinos and gorillas. In several countries, even the effort to fight global warming by turning to plant-based fuels is threatening ecosystems and destroying the natural habitats of endangered wildlife. The UN is calling for resolute action and international cooperation in stopping human greed and overcoming indifference to a serious problem.

The UN stresses that environmental problems are threatening economies, communities and national security. Being blessed with rich biodiversity, the Philippines has a greater responsibility as a custodian and must do more to protect its gifts. These blessings are part of every Filipino’s natural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.

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