Philippines black-lists Chinese wildlife smuggler
MANILA, Philippines—An alleged wildlife trafficker from China who was caught twice bringing in rare Philippine turtles and lizards to Hong Kong has been banned from reentering the country, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said his department received an assurance from the Philippine consulate in Xiamen, China, that it would assist in preventing the reentry of Zhang Wen Wei, a Chinese national allegedly involved in wildlife smuggling.
In a letter to the DENR, Consul General Adelio Angelito Cruz said his office will closely monitor the possible reapplication for visa by the Chinese man.
“We are very thankful (for) Mr. Cruz’s decision as there is no room for such kind of tourists whose intention is to extract and exploit our wildlife resources, especially those considered endemic and endangered,” Paje said in a statement.
He also expressed his appreciation for Hong Kong authorities for their cooperation not only in the enforcement of international laws on wildlife trade, but also in exerting genuine efforts to return the smuggled Philippine wildlife.
“Inasmuch as we have local laws to protect the country’s rich biodiversity, the international community also recognizes the importance of protecting wildlife that are endemic or indigenous to any country or locality, and prevent them from being illegally transported to end up as pets, or worse, as accessories or delicacies,” he said.
Paje said strictly regulating the trade in endemic species would also prevent their introduction as possible foreign and invasive species, which might later prove harmful to the other country’s endemic wildlife.
Citing news reports, the DENR said Zhang was first apprehended in Hong Kong on February 8, with 36 turtles, 20 of which were Philippine pond turtles (Siebenrockiela leytensis), considered one of the rarest turtle species in the world and endemic to Palawan.
He was also carrying 16 Asian box turtles (Cuora amboinens), also categorized as “vulnerable” in the Philippines, although the species thrives in other countries in Southeast Asia. Zhang was fined HK$8,000 or P45,000 for the offense.
On April 27, only eight of the Philippine pond turtles and 13 Asian box turtles were successfully repatriated, the DENR said
The first penalty seemed not to have deterred Zhang, as he repeated the offense five months later, it added.
On a June 14 trip to Hong Kong from the Philippines aboard another Cebu Pacific flight, he transported 137 reptiles of various species. He was immediately prosecuted by Hong Kong authorities on June 15 and meted out a penalty of imprisonment for six weeks.
On August 1, Hong Kong repatriated 19 Mindanao water monitor lizards (Varanus cumingi); 39 Philippine forest turtles; 46 Southeast Asian box turtle; and one reticulated python (Python reticulatus).
Because of Zhang’s activities, the DENR asked the Bureau of Immigration and the Philippine Consulate in Xiamen, China, to bar his re-entry to the country.
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