By Ellalyn de Vera Ruiz
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), is asking the public to help in locating the nine endangered animal species stolen from Avilon Zoo last August 14.
“We urge those who may have information on who has custody of the wild fauna stolen from Avilon Zoo to report such information to our office through any possible means,” BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said. She said information that could lead to the arrest of those responsible for stealing the animals from the wildlife facility will be treated with absolute confidentiality.
The 7.5-hectare Avilon Zoo located in Rodriguez, Rizal is currently the largest zoological institution in the country in terms of land area and collection of animals. Last August 14, the zoo announced that thieves broke into its premises and stole nine endangered species of animals.
These include three mature red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria), one mature yellow-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis denticulatus); one mature common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina); three mature black palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus), and one juvenile brown tufted capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella). All nine animals are part of the zoo’s conservation breeding program.
Rodriguez warned that penalties await the suspects in the Avilon Zoo break-in as provided for under Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, which prohibits the killing, injuring, illegal trading, collecting, possessing and transporting wildlife and their by-products and derivatives. Violators could face a fine of up to P500,000 and maximum jail term of six years.
“We are serious in the implementation of wildlife laws, as well as in our commitment to international wildlife trade agreements. Mere possession of undocumented wildlife species as well as illegal trade of such species is punishable under local and international laws,” Rodriguez said.
According to DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, the incident is now being investigated by the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade or Task Force POGI, DENR-Calabarzon, and the management of Avilon Zoo. He said authorities have not yet received any information into who may have taken the animals.
DENR officials also pointed out that the missing animals are not meant to be pets as they are “owned by nature.”