The COVID 19 pandemic being experienced by our country has given a new focus in conservation efforts as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region IX, Zamboanga Peninsula notes an increase in wildlife rescue and releases from different parts of the region during this period of lockdowns and house quarantines.
 
Regional Executive Director Crisanta Marlene P. Rodriguez said that her office has noted an increase number of wildlife rescue, retrieval and releases as compared to last year. Most of these occurred during the start of the pandemic in March up to June of this year.
 
Director Rodriguez said that wildlife rescue and retrievals were made possible through the help of concerned citizens who contact the office utilizing text messages in DENR-IX Hotlines, phone calls, Facebook Messages, electronic mails, or simply visiting any field offices to report on the presence of stranded, captured or injured wildlife in their community.
 
“Majority of our rescue efforts were successful due to the fact that people in the community would call us to report on the presence of wildlife or simply turning it over to us as they do not know what to do with it or simply because they know that there is a law for the protection of wildlife,” Rodriguez said.
 
Even though communities are under lockdown due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), DENR maintains a skeleton workforce to act as quick response team to deal with the enforcement of environmental laws which includes wildlife rescue and retrievals.
 
Based on records from the Protected Areas Management and Biodiversity Conservation Section of the Conservation and Development Division, from January to June of this year, a total of 60 individuals consisting of terrestial mammals, birds, reptiles and marine turtles were rescued/retrieved and were confined at the Regional Wildlife Rescue Center in Baclay, Tukuran and at temporary wildlife holding centers maintained by the different DENR field offices as compared to only 23 individuals from July to December of last year. These animals are undergoing medical treatment for injuries sustained, medical tests for presence of diseases and rehabilitation until such time they are fit and healthy to be released back in the wild.
 
The office also recorded 12 mortalities or death of rescued wildlife from January to June of this year as against 2 mortalities recorded from July to December of last year due to the fact that the injuries sustained by the animals were so extensive and, despite medical treatment, they still succumbed to their wounds.
 
From January to June of this year, a total of 55 animals were released back to the wild as compared to 23 animals released from July to December of last year. The number increases as the office also recorded a total of 942 marine turtle hatchlings released composed of 837 Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and 105 Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).
 
One of the highlights of wildlife releases back to the wild was a juvenile Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) named Siocon who was rescued in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte in April of this year and released after a month in Baliguian, of the said province.
 
Director Rodriguez said Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act is the national law that governs the protection of the country’s wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainability. This law prescribes fines and imprisonment for acts against wildlife such as killing, inflicting injury, destruction of their habitat, illegal trade, collecting or possession, hunting, maltreatment and illegal transport.
 
DENR 9 has intensified its efforts in monitoring wildlife trafficking considering that Zamboanga Peninsula could either be a source or transit area for illegal wildlife. Airports, seaports and strategic checkpoints are manned by its personnel and deputized wildlife enforcement officers to monitor and check transport of wildlife.
 
“Our country is a mega-diverse country in terms of wildlife resources and there is a need to protect it from poachers and destroyers of nature. With the help of our citizenry, we can achieve this noble purpose, “ Rodriguez said.
 
She added that the COVID 19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for people to notice the existence of wildlife in their area and it has added a different perspective in their understanding on the value of life, whether people or animals, and that each of us has the right to exist in this planet. Photos Courtesy of DENR 9