Poachers nabbed for butchering critically-endangered tamaraw in Mindoro

Published August 30, 2020, 1:31 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Three poachers reportedly shot and butchered a critically-endangered tamaraw in the Mounts Iglit- Baco Natural Park in Mindoro last Friday, August 28.

Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) and park rangers recover fresh strips of tamaraw meat being dried as beef jerky or tapa. The meat came from a tamaraw bull which was approximately six years old. Legally-protected animals like the tamaraw are targeted for the illegal bushmeat trade in many parts of the world. (Tamaraw Conservation Programme/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Two of them were reportedly arrested by patrolling park rangers, while their cohort was able to escape.

However, the two arrested poachers were later able to escape.

“Poachers might be using the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) lockdown as an opportunity to illegally enter our country’s protected areas and hunt animals. Rest assured that our rangers won’t stand for this. We’ll see to it that these poachers are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) head Neil Anthony del Mundo said in a statement.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon condemned the slaughtering of endangered wildlife.

“Nothing, not even the pandemic, is an excuse to kill legally-protected wildlife, for no one is above the law. We will work with both DENR-MIMAROPA (Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) and the TCP to ensure that poachers get the punishment they deserve. Let this serve as a lesson for would-be poachers,” he said.

The rangers caught the poachers drying meat near the base of Mt. McGowen inside the natural park shortly before noon on Friday.

Two “pugakangor homemade shotguns were confiscated, as well as a sack of tamaraw meat, to be dried and illegally sold as tapa or buffalo bush jerky. 

However, just after three hours in custody, the two apprehended poachers were able to escape into the jungle.

Tamaraws are the world’s most endangered buffalo species, and are considered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically-endangered, the highest risk-rating for any species. 

Only around 600 are left worldwide, most of them found in four isolated areas in Mindoro. 

They are legally protected under the Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. Killing endangered wildlife entails up to 12 years of jail time plus a fine of up to ₱1 million.

Dedicated rangers and wardens of the Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) and TCP have been conserving the tamaraw for decades. From less than 100 animals in 1969, numbers have recovered to about 600.

“Our tamaraw frontliners who in spite of losing incomes due to the pandemic, continue their daily patrols without expectation of compensation just to ensure the safety of our tamaraw. It is high time and urgent that budgetary resources for environmental protection and enforcement be given utmost priority for protected areas, which are home to critically-endangered and threatened species like the tamaraw,” said BIOFIN Philippines project manager Anabelle Plantilla.

Through the #TogetherforTamaraws, BIOFIN is hoping to raise approximately ₱1.149 million by October 2020 to help secure sorely-needed allowances and provisions for the tamaraw frontliners until January 2021. Plantilla enjoins everyone “to help the tamaraw frontliners by supporting #TogetherforTamaraws.”

“UNDP Philippines continues to support the rangers and wardens through the #TogetherforTamarawscampaign. Now more than ever, we need to join efforts to protect the tamaraw – a species in danger of extinction. We must protect what is left of our collective respect for life on Earth,” UNDP Philippines resident representative Enrico Gaveglia said.