MANILA - A tamaraw, which is a critically-endangered species, was slaughtered in Mindoro Occidental while the three poachers responsible for it escaped authorities last Friday, an alliance of environmental groups said Sunday.
They were spotted drying meat near the base of Mt. McGowen in the Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park and two poachers were initially caught. They, however, fled custody after 3 hours, and joined the third in escaping.
“Pang kain lang po ito, tapos yung iba pang benta (We’ll eat some of the meat and sell the rest on the market),” one of the poachers told the groups.
A sack of tamaraw meat, to be dried and illegally sold as tapa or buffalo bush jerky, and 2 homemade shotguns were confiscated, the groups said.
Tamaraws (Bubalus mindorensis) are legally protected under the Wildlife Act, which penalizes killing of endangered species with up to 12 years in jail and a fine of up to P1 million.
The animal is the world’s most endangered buffalo species, with only around 600 left worldwide, most of which are found in isolated areas in Mindoro, according to the environmental alliance..
“Poachers might be using the COVID-19 lockdown as an opportunity to illegally enter our country’s protected areas and hunt animals," said Tamaraw Conservation Program head Neil Anthony del Mundo.
"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."
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) "strongly condemns" the butchering of endangered wildlife, said Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon.
“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 and the TCP to ensure that poachers get the punishment they deserve. Let this serve as a lesson for would-be poachers," he said.
Rangers and wardens of the TCP and MIBNP continue to patrol the forest to protect tamaraws despite being underquipped and underfunded, with the pandemic adding to their woes.
The DENR, United Nations Development Program’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (UNDP-BIOFIN) and other organizations have launched #TogetherforTamaraws to raise an estimated P1.149 million cash gift for the rangers.
“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.