Authorities in Palawan confiscated on June 18 a shipment of 4,200 critically endangered forest turtles that are believed to be destined for the Chinese black market with an estimated value of around US$400,000.
The endangered animals, comprised mostly of highly valued “Siebenrockiella leytensis”, also known as the Philippine pond turtle, were rescued in a warehouse owned by a Chinese trader living in Bataraza town near the southernmost tip of the province.
Alex Marcaida, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) information head, told Inquirer that the raiding team, composed of PCSD enforcers and members of the Provincial Law Enforcement Task Force, were preparing to file charges against a certain Peter Lei, said to be a Chinese national but a long-time resident in the area and owner of the warehouse.
The turtles were turned over to a government-run rehabilitation facility, the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, and Katala Foundation in preparation for their release in the wild, according to Marcaida. At least 90 turtles were already dead when they conducted the raid.
The wildlife shipment, according to one of the enforcement team members, was being prepared for shipment to China, where the turtles are in demand both as food and as pet. Marcaida said they believed the turtles were collected mainly from various parts of northern Palawan where the endangered species are believed to be abundant.
“The black market rate in China for these species is around $200 a kilo,” Marcaida said. Marcaida said they were preparing charges against the trader for violation of the Philippine Wildlife Act, Republic Act No. 9147
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