Philippine police arrested three people for allegedly trafficking in some of the world’s rarest and least known turtles, officials said Thursday.
Police on Wednesday detained the two women and a man during a raid on a house in rundown district of Manila where 21 turtles and 70 endangered birds were found, said Marlyn Siglos, a member of the city government’s media office.
Siglos said Wednesday’s raid was the first major action by Manila mayor Alfredo Lim since he took office last year to stamp out the well-known trade of endangered species in the city.
“The mayor said we need to warn the public that the trade and export of endangered species is against the law,” Siglos told AFP.
Police suspect the turtles and the birds – 69 hill mynahs and one crested serpent-eagle – seized this week were captured on the western island of Palawan and destined for export to supply the global pet trade, Siglos added.
The reptiles are believed to be Philippine pond turtles, critically endangered species found only on Palawan, said Josefina de Leon, wildlife resources division chief of the environment ministry.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has since 2000 listed the pond turtle – a web-footed, freshwater creature that grows to about 21-centimetres (8.3-inches) long – as “critically endangered”.
“Known from only four specimens this species has acquired a mythical reputation that will make any further animals extremely valuable in the pet trade,” the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species says.
Hill mynahs and crested serpent-eagles are not considered endangered by the IUCN, but de Leon said the Philippine government classified them on its own list as “vulnerable”.
Trafficking in critically endangered species such as the pond turtles is punishable by up to four years in jail and a 300,000-peso (7,059-dollar) fine, according to de Leon.
Trafficking in “vulnerable” species attracts lesser penalties. -By Noel Celis