Chinese vessel runs into reef, illegal pangolin meat found onboard

On April 8, Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu rammed into a reef in the southwestern Philippines called the Tubbataha National Marine Park. The park is 239,700-acre marine sanctuary and a World Heritage Site.

However, the damage to the reef wasn’t the only threat to the environment, according to a NBC article.

On the second day of exploring the vessel, over 22,000 pounds of pangolin, a protected species, was found. A ban on hunting these creatures has been in place since 2002.

Pangolins, along with hundreds of other illegally hunted animals, yield around $19 billion a year worldwide.  Photo from www.wildlifesafari.info.

Pangolins, along with hundreds of other illegally hunted animals, yield around $19 billion a year worldwide. Photo from http://www.wildlifesafari.info.

Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, a coast guard spokesman, said 400 boxes were found, each holding “25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins.”

In total, the vessel could have been carrying 2,000 dead and de-scaled animals, said the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines. The meat and scales go for hundreds of dollars because many Chinese believe they can cure sicknesses.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature said the demand for pangolins is on the rise and “lax laws are wiping out the toothless anteaters from their forest habitat in Southeast Asia.”

There are four species of pangolins and two are endangered. It is still unknown which species was found on the vessel.

WWF-Philippines Chief Executive Officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said that it was “simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife.”

The 12 crew members are detained on charges of poaching and attempted bribery. The men claimed to have wandered into the illegal waters by accident. They face a $300,000 fine – and that’s just for the poaching charges. For the animal meat, they could be fined and imprisoned for six years. On top of that, it is probable that the men will face charges on reef damage and violating the Philippines’ wildlife law.

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