Taking endangered wildlife as pets against the law, says DENR chief
MANILA, Philippines — Let’s not pet them.
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje urged the public on Sunday to refrain from keeping wildlife species as pets and taking them away from their natural habitats because they are highly vulnerable to stress.
Paje made the call following last week’s death from pneumonia and cardiac arrest of a male tarsier, which had been rescued from the Manila Golf and Country Club in Makati City.
In a statement Paje said, “We have very interesting wildlife species, such as the tarsier. Most of the time we are tempted to buy them and take them as pets. But these are very different from domesticated animals like dogs and cats. They are very sensitive and highly vulnerable to stress and diseases.”
He added that the survival rate of wildlife animals kept as pets has been very low.
The environment secretary stressed that the death of the tarsier should serve as a wake up call and said, “If we want our children to see our precious wildlife species alive, let us leave them alone in the wilds where they belong. Let’s not pet them.”
Paje likewise warned that the collection of wildlife species, both flora and fauna, from the wild without a permit would be illegal. Mere possession, he said, of an endangered animal would be punishable under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act with a maximum of four years of imprisonment and a P300,000 fine.
Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) director Mundita Lim said that based on the result of the necropsy, the tarsier died of pneumonia and cardiac arrest. She said that the cause of death was an indication of exposure to stress.
The PAWB director said that the tarsier was found dead at around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday last week inside its cage at the intensive care section of the wildlife rescue center in Quezon City.
Lim said that arrangements had previously been made with the Philippine Airlines last Tuesday for the tarsier’s flight back to Bohol for re-introduction into the wild.
She explained that taking into consideration the frailty of the tarsier when taken out of its natural habitat, she had dispensed with the standard 90-day observation period and ordered the primate flown back to Bohol as soon as it showed signs of appetite improvement.
Lim said, “To keep the tarsier from further stress, our veterinarians decided against subjecting the animal from outside contact. Getting blood samples to determine its condition was totally out of the question,” and stressed that the animal’s appetite was the only way to go by to determine its condition at the time.
The tarsier showed signs of appetite improvement until Wednesday morning, when the caretaker noticed that the animal did not eat and was on the floor of the cage. It eventually died past noon.
The Philippine tarsier (tarsius syrichta) is one of the smallest known primates in the world. Its size ranges from 118 to 149 millimeters (4.6 to 5.8 inches) while its average weight is between 113 and 142 grams.
The Philippine tarsier is among “endangered” wildlife species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Monitoring Center in 1986 and is now included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of “near threatened” animals.