TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors global wildlife trading, has called for tougher crackdown on the illegal sale of monitor lizards in the country, especially species endemic to the Philippines.
The organization made the call after it found that over 541 monitor lizards — two-thirds of which occur solely in the Philippines — were listed for sale in over 20 Facebook groups in the country in the past 30 months.
In its “The Trade of Live Monitor Lizards (Varanidae) in the Philippines” report, TRAFFIC warned that ongoing poaching, smuggling, and laundering are endangering endemic monitor lizards in the country.
The most common endemic species being illegally sold online is the Marbled Water Monitor Varanus marmoratus, according to TRAFFIC.
“It is illegal to trade any wild-caught native monitors since the country’s wildlife authority has not issued permits to collect and trade native wild reptiles for commercial purposes since 2001,” TRAFFIC said.
“Although the report was unable to establish whether the lizards listed online were all wild-caught, the evidence of sellers’ posts claiming the lizards were hunted and the existence of scant registered wildlife farms, points to the potential illegal harvesting of monitor lizards from the wild,” it added.
Emerson Sy, TRAFFIC’s lead author of the report, said “more must be done” to stop the illegal trade of native and range-restricted species.
“Although some social media platforms remove posts offering wildlife, if they violate use terms, much more must be done by enforcement agencies to crack down on those catching, selling, and buying these animals,” Sy said.
“There must be greater vigilance at the provincial level to prevent the illegal harvesting of local monitor lizards, and for enhanced vigilance at seaports and airports”, he added.
TRAFFIC also called for “greater scrutiny” of wildlife captive breeding facilities, after “emerging evidence” showed that some are involved in wildlife laundering or “the process of fraudulently declaring illegal or wild-caught animals as bred in captivity.”
“If facilities that claim to breed reptiles in captivity don’t undergo thorough checks, the unscrupulous will continue to sneak wild animals into trade under the guise of legal captive breeding. Better checks and balances will also ensure that facilities falsely claiming to conduct breeding for conservation do not gain access to wild-caught animals,” the organization said.