The Philippine forest turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis), a critically endangered species found only in Palawan, remains to be under threat due to the illegal pet trade and weaknesses in the country’s environmental laws, according to experts.
Wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC said in a joint press release with Katala Foundation, Inc. dated September 3 that because of the recent surge in demand for the species among pet collectors in the past 15 years, the Philippine forest turtle remains to be under threat.
Dr. Sabine Schoppe, turtle conservation program head for the Katala Foundation, Inc., noted that the demand for the turtles as pet continues, with transactions even done online.
“We have recent evidence that illegal collection and trade continue, and that demand for this turtle has not diminished,” Schoppe said.
According to TRAFFIC, there have been reported cases of turtle sellers or dealers applying for selling permits from authorities for “captive-bred” turtles, which in fact were first caught in the wild then falsely labeled as such.
“The findings point towards the likelihood of wild-caught specimens being laundered as captive-bred,” TRAFFIC researcher Emerson Sy said in the presser.
It is in fact difficult to breed the species in captivity, said Schoppe, as the Katala Foundation has tried to do so.
“Minsan ang ginagawa ng mga poachers, hinuhuli nila ang pregnant mother turtle at kapag napisa na ang mga itlog, mag-aapply sila ng permit para ibenta as ‘captive bred’ ang mga turtles. Pero hindi iyon tama, kasi ang definition ng captive bred, kailangan mayroong nanay at tatay na turtle,” said Schoppe in an interview Thursday (September 3).
“It is very difficult to breed the turtles in captivity. Katala Foundation successfully needs since 2018 after 10 years of conservation breeding efforts,” she added.
Sy added that stricter environmental laws must be in place, including captive-bred turtles to be banned for trade as pets.
“Declaring an immediate moratorium on trade in the Philippine Forest Turtle would close this loophole, help the government prevent illegal trade, and help ensure the continued survival of this endemic species,” he said.
The seizure in Southern Palawan of some 4,000 mixed turtle species in 2015 accounted for nearly 83 percent of all reported seizure cases done in the country since 2004, according to a wildlife monitoring group.