File photo of some of the 20 pangolins recently rescued from a suspected illegal wildlife trafficker in El Nido. (Photo courtesy of CENRO Taytay)

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) commended the rescue of pangolins and other threatened species in Palawan and South Cotabato in the Philippines, citing the role of communities in combating wildlife trafficking.

“The recent rescue of wild animals demonstrates the seriousness of the Philippine government, with the help of community organizations, in enforcing its wildlife trafficking law and its commitment to strengthening cooperation with the fellow ASEAN Member States in campaigns to end wildlife trafficking,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said.

Twenty live pangolins (Manis culionensis) were reportedly recovered from a wildlife trafficker over the weekend in El Nido, Palawan.

According to reports, the joint operation was conducted by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Bantay Palawan Task Force, Naval Forces West, Joint Task Force Malampaya, 3rd Marine Company of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3, local environment office, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Pangolins, which are found throughout Southeast Asia, are considered one of the world’s most trafficked mammals.

“Stopping the poaching of pangolins, which is an ASEAN-wide problem, entails the reduction of the demand for it. There is no scientific evidence that shows pangolin scales have high medicinal value,” Lim said.

Lim stressed the need to raise public awareness on the important roles of pangolins, which provide pest control and improve soil quality in ecosystems.

In a separate incident, an adult male tarsier that found its way into the hands of children in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, was rescued by a villager.

The Philippines is enforcing the Republic Act No. 9147, otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, which provides for the conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitats and prohibits trade and transportation of wildlife species.

“On several occasions, members of communities have become first responders in the rescue of wild animals. The success of wildlife conservation greatly depends on the people’s awareness of and attitudes towards wildlife conservation,” Lim, former chair of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and former director of the Philippines’ Biodiversity Management Bureau under the DENR, said.

The Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN Member States are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement among governments, aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. (Release from the Asian Centre for Biodiversity)