WRS calls for curbs in illegal animal trade


SINGAPORE: More than 4,400 freshwater turtles in Philippines, including the critically endangered Palawan forest turtles, were bound for export to markets in China, when they were discovered in a warehouse and rescued last month.

“Many of the turtles discovered were on the verge of death or were in bad condition from months of neglect in captivity. They showed major symptoms of dehydration as well as severe shell necrosis, ocular lesions and bite wounds,” said Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which aided the rehabilitation of the turtles.

The turtles are believed to have been collected over several months from their native range ofnorthern Palawan, and were bound for markets in China. (Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore)

Calling for curbs in illegal animal trade, WRS said in a statement on Wednesday (Jul 8): “Demand for animal skin, meat, and body parts as well as for exotic pets is on the rise with growing affluence and purchasing power. As a result, thousands of species like the Palawan freshwater turtle are driven towards extinction at an accelerated rate.”

The rescued animals included included 3,907 Palawan forest turtles, 168 Asian leaf turtles and 25 South-east Asian box turtles.

They were handed over to Philippine wildlfe NGO, Katala Foundation Inc (KFI), as well as the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre for safekeeping and rehabilitation. WRS has for the last three years provided financial support to KFI’s conservation efforts for the Philippine forest turtle, Palawan pangolin and Philippine cockatoo.

WRS’ Director of Conservation and Research, Dr Sonja Luz, was among the first rescue team members to arrive at Palawan, and brought medical supplies and equipment. WRS also donated S$15,000 to fund the rehabilitation process.

Dr Luz, a trained vet, brought medical supplies with her, and collaborated with experts from Hong Kong Ocean Park, Turtle Conservancy and Turtle Survival Alliance in the first days of the crisis. (Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore)

“It was overwhelming in the beginning to be on ground attending to thousands of turtles struggling for their survival, but the good news is that because of the amazing local and international team efforts, most of these animals could be rehabilitated,” said Dr Luz, a trained vet. She cared for the turtles, alongside international veterinary colleagues from Hong Kong Ocean Park, Turtle Conservancy and Turtle Survival Alliance.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the turtles, believed to have been collected overseveral months from their native range of northern Palawan, had an estimated value of around S$540,000. At least 90 turtles were dead when the raid was conducted, Mr Alex Marcaida, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff information head was quoted as saying.

The Inquirer reported that the warehouse caretaker was arrested, and authorities were, last month, preparing to file charges against a Chinese national, believed to be the owner of the warehouse.

Read the original TODAY report here.

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