Philippines wins Global Wildlife Programme award as it combats illegal wildlife trade, fights Covid 19 traced to wildlife disease transmission

December 14, 2021

The Philippines has recently won the 2021 Knowledge Market “Most Useful Project Resources” award at the recently concluded Global Wildlife Programme (GWP) Annual Conference held virtually last November 30-December 2, 2021.

   The country bested 36 projects in 31 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

   The award was part of a series of mini-competitions that included “Best Knowledge Market Pitch”, “Best Overall Knowledge Share/Need”, “Most Useful Project Resources”, and “Best HowSpace Collaboration.” Team Philippines was also nominated in the “Best Knowledge Market Pitch” category.

   As the prize, the GWP Team will co-design a webinar with Team Philippines.

   With the theme Working Together for Wildlife Conservation, the 2021 GWP Annual Conference focused on successfully collaborating, engaging, and empowering stakeholders to support wildlife conservation and sustainable local livelihoods.

   The Team Philippines’  Knowledge Products and videos may be viewed at Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Biodiversity Management Bureau’s YouTube Channel.

   The Philippines has been aggressively disseminating information on wildlife conservation considering its huge impact in human lives, surprisingly on human health.

   In “Illegal Trade:  A Conduit Through Which Coronavirus Transmitted to Human, Atty Theresa M. Tenazas said pandemics have clearly shown “links to virus reservoir in wildlife populations.”

   “The SARS outbreak in 2002, which infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in 774 deaths in 37 countries, came from a novel betacoronavirus sourced from bats through masked palm civets as the intermediate host before reaching humans,” said Tenazas.

   Tenazas is Wildlife Resources chief of DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

   “The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2012, which infected 2,494 and cost 858 human lives, also came from another coronavirus passing though dromedary camels to humans,” she said.

   Even African Swine Fever (ASF) which has caused huge economic losses to Philippines and many Asian countries is attributed to wild African suids.

   Tenazas noted that the wildlife of the Philippines includes a significant number of endemic animal and plant species. Sixty-seven percent of the 52,177 species in the country are endemic and 418 are listed as threatened by the Rest List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as of year 2000.

   Hunting for international trade, massive land conversion and climate change have all been wreaking havoc on these wildlife population.

   Today, wildlife trafficking is a transnational organized crime. It is the “fourth largest transnational criminal activity in the world next to drugs trafficking, human trafficking and counterfeit goods trafficking”.

   Disease transmission through animals have long been documented in the Philippines.

  Tenazas noted that evidence of Reston ebolavirus (RESTV) infection was found in domestic pigs and pig workers in the Philippines in 2008-2009.  And bats were suspected to be the possible reservoir of RESTV.

   DENR-BMB is now advocating for stricter penalties for illegal wildlife trade through proposed amendments to Republic Act 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.”

   It has so much to protect as Philippines is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world with its unique endemic flora and fauna species.

   DENR-BMB has been continuously holding workshops as part of controlling illegal wildlife trade (IWT).  It is training people on  IWT expertise including Online Trade Investigation, Financial Investigation on Wildlife Crimes Advance Prosecutor and Enforcement Workshop.     

    In these efforts, it has partnerships with USAID Protect Wildlife Project,  BMB-ADB/GEF (Asian Development Bank-Global Environment Facility) IWT Project and the United States Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, &Training Counter Wildlife Trafficking.

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