TWO suspected wildlife traders were arrested yesterday through the efforts of various agencies.
Involved in the operation were the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD), NBI 7, DENR 7, and the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade (Pogi).
The first suspect, Jhesul Paras, was arrested in Barangay Carreta. He had in his possession one albino burmese python and one grace monitor lizard, both of which were identified by BMB wildlife veterinarian Esteven Toledo as endangered.
The second suspect was Alpie Jun Juguilon, also known as Alpie D Law and Harvey Salvador. He was arrested in Upper San Roque, Bulacao.
Authorities did not find any live animal, but animal derivatives and byproducts were seized from Juguilon.
The suspects are said to be connected in a Facebook group called Cebu Inverts Keepers, whose members are engaged in keeping tarantulas and reptiles. Paras and Juguilon reportedly sell reptiles through the internet.
“Based on our monitoring, the group has been operating as early as 2013. We don’t know the exact numbers but what we know is that they have a group,” said Toledo, who added that Cebu could be a hotspot for the wildlife trade.
Authorities found out that the traders concealed wildlife species by putting them inside CPUs of computers, radio speakers and children’s toys.
The animals are reportedly sent far as the US and sold at $500 to $1,000.
Toledo said the price depends on the animal’s size and category. Bigger and more species are more expensive.
Paras and Juguilon were arrested for violations of Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Protection and Conservation Act.
The two denied the accusation, but charges are being filed against them. They are under the custody of the NBI 7 for questioning.
DENR-Wildlife Resources Division Senior Ecosystems Management specialist Rogelio Demelletes Jr. said they started catching those involved in illegal wildlife trading in 2012. The difficulty was in tracing the suspects because they have no records with any government office.
The investigation prior to yesterday’s raid started three to four months ago.