Is your pet parrot, snake or turtle properly documented? Were they legally acquired or bred in authorized breeding facility?
Do you have a permit as private wildlife collector and breeder?
If if the answers were no, then you might find yourself in trouble, not only of losing your pet, but you may spend time behind bars for illegal wildlife trade.
Continuous wildlife registration
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is coming up with a new guideline for Republic Act (RA) 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, to ensure the continuous wildlife registration.
This includes offspring or progenies of those bred in captivity, in the DENR’s bid to properly regulate the collection and trade of wildlife and prevent illegal wildlife trade, including the lucrative pet trade that targets rare native species and exotic animals that are critically endangered or on the brink of extinction.
DENR Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon said they are also looking at imposing an annual renewal of Certificates of Wildlife Registration (CWR) in a bid to build a database of legally acquired wildlife, whether they are threatened, non-threatened, or exotic animals.
“Before, under the Wildlife Act, wildlife registration is a one-time activity. We want to change that. Also, we want to start issuing a certificate of wildlife registration for progenies of animals bred in captivity,” Calderon told the BusinessMirror during a telephone interview.
A remedial measure
Calderon, also the concurrent director of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), said they are now trying to correct what they believed to be a flaw in the existing guidelines for the implementation of the Wildlife Act.
The new guideline will come in the form of a new DENR Administrative Order (DAO) and a Technical Bulletin, both of which aims to remedy loopholes in previous DAOs.
Included in the orders to be remedied is DAO 2004-55, or DENR streamlining/procedural guidelines, pursuant to the Joint DENR-Department of Agriculture-Palawan Council for Sustainable Development implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9147, or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”
Another is DAO 2004-58, which pertains to the registration of threatened and exotic species of wild fauna in the possession of private persons and entities; and DAO 2004-62, which provides fees and other guidelines on the implementation of threatened, non-threatened and exotic faunal species under the jurisdiction of the DENR.
Theresa Tenazas, OIC of the Wildlife Bureau at the DENR-BMB, said the plan to formulate a new guideline came after questions on the legal possession of exotic wildlife was raised following viral social-media posts of a North American serval cat and two common ostriches, a species known to occur in Africa, were seen inside posh subdivisions in Antipolo City and Quezon City, respectively, recently.
The owners of the North American wildcat and the ostriches, one of which died of stress, are facing investigation for violation of RA 9147. They failed to show documents to prove their legal acquisition of the animals, including transport permits.
Among the required documents for the possession of wildlife is the proof of legal acquisition, receipt of the sale or a deed of donations, and the animal’s CWR which may be issued by the DENR Regional Offices of the DENR-BMB.
Illegal wildlife trade
Rogelio Demelletes Jr., a DENR-BMB wildlife law enforcement specialist, said some of the suspects they arrested with the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) would show dubious documents for the animals that are being traded.
“Sometimes, a suspect would present a [genuine] certificate of wildlife registration for a wild-caught animal,” Demelletes told the BusinessMirror in a telephone interview on August 18.
Sometimes, he said, suspects would attempt to avoid arrest by showing fake CWRs.
Even with a legitimate CWR, a permittee, he said, is not allowed to sell the animal under the law, hence, a violation of the Wildlife Act for the illegal trade of wildlife is committed.
Duties and responsibilities
According to Tenazas, a lawyer, the new DAO will clearly distinguish threatened native species from non-threatened native species, and exotic animals that are allowed to be traded under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which the Philippines is a party and a signatory.
She said CWR holders have different obligations for non-threatened, threatened and exotic animals.
“We are distinguishing them now under the new DAO for clarity,” she said in partly in English and Filipino in a telephone interview on August 10.
A CWR holder’s privileges, she said, have limitations under the law and they will be clearly specified for the type of legally acquired animals in the new DAO.
The DAO, she added, will put more emphasis on the obligations of CWR holder rather than the privileges, such as the continuous registration of their acquired animals, annual renewal of CWR and reporting of inventory or status of the animals in their possession.
The DAO will also specify fees for CWR and the special permits needed for transporting the documented animals, which are often ignored by the sellers and the buyers to avoid the inconvenience of a site inspection, visit or detection, especially if the animals are of dubious origin, Tenazas said.
Current fees for special permits, she said, are reasonable, but to avoid DENR inspection, sellers, who are running an illegal breeding facility or wildlife farm often do not apply for a transport permit “because we will inspect their facility.”
“The law requires CWR or Wildlife Farm Permit [WFP) holders to have the financial and technical capacity,” Tenazas said.
She said that the continuous registration of wildlife will apply even to offsprings under the proposed DAO.
Transfer of ownership
“Even after selling, the sold animals’ [CWR] will have to be transferred to the new owner and registered with the DENR-BMB,” Tenazas said.
This, she said, will ensure that all wildlife, threatened, non-threatened, nonnative or exotic species are properly recorded.
The new DAO, she said, will also outline the guideline in trading locally and internationally, and the wildlife, depending on conservation status, will be identified.
Meanwhile, she said a Technical Bulletin will be issued by the DENR-BMB to serve as an official template or guide in the processing of CWR, including Wildlife Farm Permits.
This will help harmonize all documents pertaining to the application and issuance of CWR, she said.
Asean Centre for Biodiversity Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim, a former DENR-BMB director, welcomed the move to remedy the lapses in the Wildlife Act to ensure proper monitoring both of the CWR holder and the wildlife itself.
“There is really a need to regularly monitor the CWR holders. Through this [proposed] amendment, there will be a regular registration process, including of progenies, so that there is easy tracking of the movement of wild animals from one owner to another,” Lim told the BusinessMirror on August 18.
She underscored that in coming up with the DAO, there’s a need to consult the various stakeholders, particularly permittees, whether they are holders of a CWR or Wildlife Farm Permit.
Sought for reaction, Grace Diamante, executive director of the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc., said being a member of the party and a signatory to CITES, the Convention on Migratory Species and Convention on Biological Diversity, the Philippines need to revisit its existing guidelines and “strengthen the conservation advocacy campaign and its enforcement on the ground especially in Protected Areas where the majority of our wildlife are found.”
“We need more good, determined, trained, honest and brave individuals to implement and monitor that these are strictly enforced,” Diamante said via Messenger on August 18.
It is about time for the DENR to allocate more fund to environmental, habitat and biodiversity protection rather than infrastructure projects.
“We need to support our rangers out in the field—arm them with the proper information on species, law enforcement and proper handling of such cases in the field. The DENR cannot do this alone. We all need to support each other and play an important role in getting things done in the most righteous, safer, and ethical way,” Diamante added.
Image credits: Gaudencio de la Cruz/DENR-SCIS