Following a tip-off from the public officers from the Philipphine Coastguard made a search of a boat in Coron, Palawan and discovered 23 pangolin hidden in the roof space of the boat. The officials received a tip-off on Monday night and immediately sent an inspection crew to search the boat, MV Maria Lydia, before it was able to depart to Manila.
(update) 22 of the pangolins where found alive while one was dead according to a coastguard statement (end update)
Commodore Efren Enrico Evangelista, head of the coastguard in the Palawan district, said the owner could face charges for breeching the Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
He said the cargo vessel is owned by JCAP Shipping Lines and skippered by Menandro Fabul.
Meanwhile the case of the F/V Min Long Yu continues to be investigated. The ship ran aground last week on a protected reef and 400 boxes of pangolin parts – equal to over 2,000 pangolins – were found hidden on board. The ship has now been removed from the reef and is at Puerto Princesa Port.
The coastguard is currently undertaking a detailed search of the ship to discover if it has any more hidden holds that could contain other smuggled wildlife. Close examination of the frozen pangolins has revealed that at least some of the pangolins originate from Palawan district of the Philippines.
The scale patterns and head and tail sizes indicate that at least some of the pangolins on-board came from local forests but more samples are now being sent for DNA testing to confirm the identify of the species. As local pangolins look very similar to those found in Malaysia and Indonesia and DNA tests will confirm the origin of the species.
The authorities have so far been unable to trace the owner of the Min Long Yu. Even as the authorities look for the boats owner both the owner and crew are facing ever escalating fines and possible prison sentences.
Even before the case gets to court the Tubbataha Management Office who looks after the World Heritage Site Reed said that they will be making an administrative fine of P1.4 million (approx. £225,00) for unauthorised entry to the marine park, failure to pay conservation fees and disturbing resources.
The office is also awaiting the damage assessment of the reef before adding on a compensation order to be paid. A team of marine scientists are heading out to the reef today (Tuesday) to begin a detailed assessment of the damage. An initial assessment last week put the area of coral reef damage at 2,300 square meters.
The fines are in addition to the criminal charges being bought against the crew and owners of the vessel for wildlife trafficking and attempting to bribe customs officials.
Tubbataha Management Office: Blog post about the Min Long Yu.