By Celeste Anna R. Formoso
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 23 (PNA) — The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) suspects that the over 4,000 critically-endangered and endemic Philippine pond turtles (bakoko) seized recently in a warehouse in Bataraza town were supposed to be shipped to China.
PCSDS Alex Marcaida said their suspicion was wired after determining that a warehouse where they were discovered was owned by a Chinese national named Peter Lei.
Now at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC) in Barangay Irawan, the pond turtles can reportedly fetch PHP18 million for local illegal traders once they are bought for the Chinese black market.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Marcaida said the Philippine pond turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) also known as Philippine forest turtle, the Palawan turtle, or the Leyte pond turtle are in demand for food and as pet to Chinese hobbyists.
The market is lucrative for the poachers because they are in demand as food and pets, Marcaida said, adding in China, a kilo of the bakoko would fetch around USD200.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) headed by Director Theresa Mundita Lim can be recalled expressing alarm over the number of Philippine pond turtles being seized.
In an interview with her middle of this month during the 23rd anniversary of the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan on June 19, Lim said it is alarming how one illegal wildlife trader can harvest as many as over 4,000 Philippine pond turtles.
It is alarming for us to find out that one illegal trader can get that many Philippine forest turtles and sea turtles. Where did they come from? We need to investigate further how that happened, and where the sources are because they (illegal wildlife traders) seem to know, she said. (PNA)