Keeping wild animals as pets is illegal and could land one in jail.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu issued this reminder following the rescue of a pangolin, also known as scaly anteater, at a posh subdivision in Muntinlupa City recently.

“Collecting, hunting or possessing wildlife species, both flora and fauna, without a valid permit from the government is illegal,” Cimatu said.

“Wild animals, including pangolins, are protected by the government and our laws, and it is unlawful to keep them as pets,” he added.

Pangolins, especially those endemic to Palawan province, are critically endangered and protected under Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.

Under the law, mere possession of a wild animal, particularly one considered “criticially endangered,” is punishable by maximum jail term of four years and a fine of up to P450,000.

Last Sept. 4, the enforcement team of Task Force POGI (Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade) rushed to Alabang Village to validate a report that one of its residents was allegedly in possession of a pangolin.

At the time, the pangolin was already in the custody of the barangay hall after it was turned over by a resident who found the animal outside the house of a Chinese national named Xiao Ming.

The Task Force POGI enforcement team—together with barangay officials, security guards and crew of GMA 7 program “Born to be Wild”—went to Ming’s residence on the same day to conduct an inspection. During the conduct of the search, neither trace nor remnant of pangolin evidence of animal keeping such as cage was found.

When interviewed by the team, Ming—through his driver and interpreter—said that in the morning of the same day, they discovered the pangolin at the ceiling of his house. He said his driver tried to catch the pangolin with a plastic basket, but it managed to escape.

Initial examination revealed that the pangolin, which Alabang village officials and residents named as “Panggoy,” was “healthy with some external parasites (ticks) noted in between its scales.”

Panggoy was brought to the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) in Quezon City for further examination and observation.

BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said the pangolin has undergone DNA test at the laboratory of the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines- Diliman. The results of said test confirmed that the pangolin is of Palawan origin. With this finding, Rodriguez said Panggoy has been returned to Palawan and released back to its natural habitat in close coordination with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development staff. The release was made earlier today (21 September).

Task Force POGI is a composite group of personnel from the DENR, including BMB, and officers of law enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation organized by the DENR in 2013, as among the measures to curb poaching and illegal trade of wildlife in the country. ###