The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) deplored how loosely permits are handed out to people who keep animals as pets in the country, after ostriches were spotted running carefree in a private subdivision in Quezon City.
“Loud sounds and being near roads or running vehicles cause ostriches great stress. For this reason alone, permits should not be granted for the keeping of these animals in residential areas,” PAWS said on social media on Thursday.
“The ostriches in the video were confused and terrified. The birds could have easily been injured or could have caused harm when they were cornered. The ordinary citizens who attempted to capture the animal were probably not aware that ostriches can inflict lacerations with their sharp toe nails or break human bones with one powerful kick,” it added.
Seeing the ostriches running around without a caretaker chasing after them only demonstrates that the owner is not capable of effectively controlling the animals or monitoring them, PAWS pointed out.
It called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke the wildlife permits of those who are clearly unfit to care for wild animals and to enforce stricter screening measures in granting permits.
PAWS explained that a wild animal’s needs can never be sufficiently met by its keepers. Ostriches, for instance, aside from a special diet, need at least 1,100 square meters of space and extremely tall fencing to prevent escapes.
“A wildlife permit holder is required to have a wildlife veterinarian check regularly on the animals. However, the ostriches did not appear to be in good health in the videos. Their feathers were covered in grime and there were bald spots on their bodies,” it said.
The group also reminded authorities of how virulent zoonotic diseases could rise out of man’s exploitation of wild animals as demonstrated by the coronavirus pandemic.
PAWS said the DENR should clamp down on wildlife collectors and strictly implement the Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.
Under RA 9147, the penalty depends not only on the act committed but also on the conservation status of the wildlife.
The highest penalties are imposed on those guilty of killing critically endangered wildlife—jail term of six years and one day to 12 years and/or payment of fine ranging from ₱100,000 to ₱1 million.
For hunting and trading, the penalty ranges from two to four years of imprisonment and/or fine of ₱30,000 to ₱300,000 for hunting and ₱5,000 to ₱300,000 for trading wildlife.
For the transport of wildlife, the penalty is six months to one-year imprisonment and/or ₱50,000 to ₱100,000 fine.