The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is seeking the public’s help in locating the nine endangered animal species stolen from Avilon Zoo last August 14.

The DENR, through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), is asking for anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of those responsible for stealing the animals from the wildlife facility.

“We urge those who may have information on who has custody of the wild fauna stolen from Avilon Zoo to report such information to our office through any possible means,” BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said all information forwarded to the BMB will be treated with absolute confidentiality.

Located in the town of Rodriguez in Rizal province, the 7.5-hectare Avilon Zoo is currently the largest zoological institution in the country in terms of land area and collection of animals.

On August 14, Avilon Zoo announced that thieves broke into its premises and stole nine endangered species of animals. These include three mature red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria), one mature yellow-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis denticulatus); one mature common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina); three mature black palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus), and one juvenile brown tufted capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella).

All nine animals are part of the zoo’s conservation breeding program.

According to DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, the incident is now being investigated by the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade or Task Force POGI, the DENR Calabarzon regional office and the management of Avilon Zoo.

Antiporda said authorities have not yet received any information or leads into who may have taken the animals.

The DENR official also pointed out that the missing animals are not meant to be pets as they are “owned by nature.”

“Harming or stealing them from their habitats or from conservation facilities is like contributing to their extinction. We need them for healthier ecosystems and for future generations to enjoy,” Antiporda said.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez warned that penalties await the suspects in the Avilon Zoo break-in as provided for under Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

The law expressly prohibits killing, injuring, and illegally trading, collecting, possessing and transporting wildlife and their by-products and derivatives. Violators could face a fine of up to P500,000 and maximum jail term of six years.

“We are serious in the implementation of wildlife laws, as well as in our commitment to international wildlife trade agreements. Mere possession of undocumented wildlife species as well as illegal trade of such species is punishable under local and international laws,” Rodriguez said.

Except for the capuchin monkey, all the stolen animals are listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The BMB is the National CITES Management Authority for Terrestrial Species.

All CITES-listed species are subject to strict regulations in international trade by countries that are party to the convention. Locally, they are considered “threatened with extinction” under DENR Administrative Order No. 2004-15.

Any information about the missing animals may be reported to the nearest DENR office or via the BMB Facebook page (DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau or @denrbiodiversity).

Informants may also contact Avilon Zoo at its landline numbers (02) 213-1062 and 948-9866, or mobile phone number (0908)865-8984. #