31 rare turtles smuggled out of PH returned by Hong Kong

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VANISHING BREED. Government officials hold three of 31 rare turtles, which Hong Kong returned during a news conference at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Friday. They were captured in Palawan last February and will be returned to their natural habitat. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

They could have ended up as delicacies in some restaurant in Hong Kong, or as someone else’s pets. But they also represented longevity and good luck. And that held true for most of the 36 rare turtles which were captured and smuggled out of the Philippines two months ago.

On Friday, 31 of the turtles made it back to Manila—alive.

Director Mundita Lim of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) said the repatriated turtles—captured in Palawan in February—seemed to be “in good condition” and that they would be sent back to their natural habitat in the province.

Lim said the 18 pond turtles and 13 box turtles would be quarantined for a month and checked by veterinarians for any signs of stress before they are returned to the wild.

Only about 120 pond turtles are estimated to remain in the wild.

‘Critically endangered’

But some bad news: Two juvenile pond turtles and three box turtles, which were among the 36 captured in Palawan, had died while in captivity.

Pond turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) are freshwater turtles endemic to the Philippines.  Box turtles, or Cuora amboinensis, are found all over Asia. They make their homes on land and in freshwater bodies. They usually grow to 22 centimeters in length.The pond turtles are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered,” the highest risk category assigned by the global environment organization for threatened species. The box turtles in the Philippines are classified as “vulnerable” or likely to be endangered.

Hot spot

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the repatriation by Hong Kong authorities of the smuggled turtles “would go a long way in strengthening the campaign against illegal wildlife trade within the region.”

“It was obvious that extra effort was taken by the Hong Kong airport and wildlife officers to have these turtles properly handled and processed pursuant to the provisions of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora,” Lim said.

The Philippines is one of the “hot spots” for the illegal wildlife trade, with poachers and illegal fishermen harvesting corals, turtles, sharks and other marine wildlife in areas such as West Philippine (South China) Sea and the Sulu Sea.

Unprecedented step

Records gathered by the PAWB showed that the turtles were part of the cargo on board a Cebu Pacific Airlines flight which left for Hong Kong on Feb. 8. Hong Kong customs officers discovered the marine reptiles hidden in a suitcase. A suspect who failed to produce necessary import documents was arrested.

Lim cited the support of the Palawan local government and the Katala Foundation Inc., a Palawan-based nongovernment organization, for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources efforts to protect Philippine wildlife species, particularly threatened endemic wildlife in Palawan.

Lim said the pond turtles were confiscated at the Hong Kong airport from a Chinese student, along with 13 box turtles.

They are prized as novelty pets or food, Lim said. Some also consider them as medicine.

Philippine officials took the unprecedented step of traveling to Hong Kong and retrieving the turtles because they are rare. Their return followed two months of liaison between Hong Kong and Filipino officials. With reports from AP, AFP and Inquirer Research

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LIAI3J4PISMOGFVMB4PLRZIMOI str8boy

    Ano yan?? Nakalusot nanaman sa NAIA pero sa HK airport nahuli?? Parang yung droga ni Singson na nakalusot sa NAIA pero sa HK nahuli?? Dapat talaga sisantihin mga bug0k na opisyal ng NAIA..sa panghihingi lang ng balato mula OFW lang sila magaling.

    • ddano

      Korekek!  Dapat imbestigahan ito para ma- pinpoint kung sinusino yung mga duty na custom people nung araw na limipad patungong HK yung Cebu Pacific ariplane. Tiyak na nasuhulan yung mga yun para magbulag-bulagan.  Ni hindi binanggit dito kung mag i-imbistiga tungkol dito. Tipong proud na proud pa itong mga tunggak na Philippine authorities na naibalik itong mga pagong courtesy of Hongkong people. HINDI NA NAHIYA ang mga MANHID!

    • http://survey.boxpinoy.com/corona.php Rare Earthling

      Sa mga bansang napuntahan ko ang amg personnel sa airport ang kamay nila laging naka turo kung hindi mo alam lumapit kalang sa kanila, itanong mo lang at ituturo nila sa iyo at  mainam sa madalas sasamahan kapa nila, pag dating sa NAIA, wala kang kalaam alam may lalapit sa iyo nakalahad na ang kamay tapos iiwan kana at bahala kana sa buhay mo. Ito namang DFA it’s more fun daw in the Philippines, maliban nalang if you’re a Filipino.

  • edm365f31

    pagka pagon walang problema sa Tsina suli kaagad….buti hindi naging sopas..

  • laguar

    Turtles are one thing; the Scarborough Shoal is quite another.

  • Ommm

    Leave it to the Chinese to take the last fish in the sea….

  • Webfeet

    The Chinese are no good for nothing. Everything to them is a about profit only. They do not care if they deplete all the fish in the sea.  How long have they been in charge of Philippines economy, too long to count, huh? The Chinese settlers have been screwing Philippines ever since they landed here illegally.  Our infrastructures are like the middle ages compared to western countries. Almost all the cities have no proper sewer system and proper sanitation system, like the majority of Chinese cities in China. Hong Kong is the only one in China that has probably has a proper sewer system because  the city was ran by the British, and now that the British is no longer there, it is going down the drain. I blame mostly the Chinese billionaires who are breaking all the building laws and rules  in the Philippines!

  • joeldcndcn

    hongkong chinese are different from communist chinese, really, but whoever were responsible for “poaching” these species should have been traced back and  known; they will still do it again if unpunished!

  • http://survey.boxpinoy.com/corona.php Rare Earthling

    Bawal hawakan iyan directly, endangered nga eh, ini-exposed nyo pa lalo sa elements.

    Basta naman talaga photo ops for facebook buti pa si manong guard hindi sumama sa  photo ops.

  • http://twitter.com/akonroan akon roan

    Mabuti pa ang Hong Kong authorities alam magsauli ng di kanila samantalang ang kalahi nila sa mainland China gusto kanila lahat ng karagatan ng West Philippine Sea.

  • Ricky070

    The financiers, the middleman, and the man-on-the-ground catching these endangered species should be caught.  The financier and the middleman should not be hard to find and without the financier and the middleman to pay the poachers to catch the endangered species, the poachers will have no incentive to poach anymore.   This kind of problems like many other problems in the country such as illegal drugs, smuggling, diploma mills, and the like can be easily solved if you have a government and a law enforcement agencies that do their job properly.  But sadly the government and the law enforcement agencies are corrupt and they lack the funding, training and the skills to catch the perpetrators. A problem compounded with another problem… reforming the country is a difficult task.

  • cooldoods

    Wow, thanks to the HK airport personnel for being alert.

  • lemon88

    BUTI PA HK KAHIT ME KASALANAN TAYO SA KANILA ME MALASAKIT SILA SA ATIN. ANG MOTHER CHINA GUSTO KAMKAMIN ANG ATIN. 

  • dmaxx_trip

    The Chinese will bastardize all that does not belong to their territory until the resources are saturated for all they care. Hindi naman sa kanila 

  • Batz61

    My question is: Who are the Philippine airport/immigration officials who allowed that passenger with one luggage of turtles permission to get out of the country? How much were they given so that they turned blind and unable to see the contents of that luggage? It’s just impossible that those contents were not seen. They deliberately turned a blind eye. They should also be persecuted / penalized to the full extent of the law. They can be traced through their log roster and CCTV records at the airport. Or, nabubulag-bulagan lang tayo by trumpeting the good deed done by Hong Kong and avoiding to deal with our BIG LIE here in the Philippines.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FRU7DTSTOE257GCYTMLLHV5HMI Coty

       for sure: “kumita na naman yang mga money faced na mga ‘yan!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3RMNEZCQQHXWOQRXJROQ2CORFU Homer Guo

      most likely these were passed off to merchants by pinoy hunters/fishermen who sell them to any available buyer. could be a rendezvous in the sea.

  • to0

    The benavolent gesture of Hong Kong is most outstanding, returning the endangered turtle which was bound as a delicacy. He heh eh! Thank you!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FRU7DTSTOE257GCYTMLLHV5HMI Coty

    hmmm….goy!  Pangyaw, ayeaahh!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Zahl/1670371040 Steven Zahl

    No Turtle Soup today

  • http://www.facebook.com/bjtagle Bernard John H. Tagle

    Hong Kong is commended on their help!
    Thanks so much to them.
    We in the country should also respect and protect inang kalikasan.
    Not littering is the basic.

  • Alajero

    …make sure they don’t end up in ongpin…turtle soup…!
    …who will make this assurance…any peta representative to do the escorting?…will you trust the airport officials?… good luck…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UBIJJNCF74GJ3GNHZRL3TGQEYA Wan

    Thank you for the vigilance of Hong Kong airport and wildlife officers.. and thank you to Hongkong govt for the return of our endangered turtles. Hope the Phil govt agencies assign to protect this highly endagered turtles would reciprocate Hingkong’s actions by doing their jobs well.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/THRDK7REM6N5UL6NUSLE5FOHBI angogay

    Thanks to the good hearted people from Hong Kong.  Even if the turtles are mere animals, they are also God’s creation.  Their life no matter how inconsequential need to be valued. 

  • WeAry_Bat

    Very good, thank you HK and Philippine officials.

  • WeAry_Bat

    As commentator noted, how can the suitcases pass the X-ray check of the airports?

    My suitcase was once checked for the number of metals inside. 

    But the way things go, I could have kidnapped Mickey Mouse into the luggage and he wouldn’t be flagged even if his outline would show up on the X-ray screen.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/KNeZ9UBnvO84g66Hf63Yd3g0GaDb#484a4 Jacob

    Thanks to MIGZ ZUBIRI and KATALA Foundation for working on this.

  • Jan Raymond Conadera

    Oo nag actually I read and was on the news about Migz Zubiri acting on this and asked dent to use his katala foundation for the transfer. Good job!

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