MANILA -- A Chinese vessel that ran into a protected coral reef in the southwestern Philippines held evidence of even more environmental destruction inside: more than 22,000 pounds of meat from a protected species: the pangolin, or scaly anteater.
The steel-hulled vessel hit an atoll on April 8 at the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on Palawan island. Coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said yesterday that 400 boxes, each containing 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen pangolins, were discovered during a second inspection of the boat Saturday.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said the Chinese vessel F/N Min Long Yu could have been carrying up to 2,000 of the toothless, insect-eating animals rolled up in the boxes, with their scales already removed.
"It is bad enough that the Chinese have illegally entered our seas, navigated without boat papers and crashed recklessly into a national marine park and World Heritage Site," said WWF-Philippines chief executive officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. "It is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife."
The boat's 12 Chinese crewmen were detained on charges of poaching and attempted bribery, said Adelina Villena, the marine park's lawyer. She said more charges are being prepared against them, including damaging the corals and violating the country's wildlife law for being found in possession of the pangolin meat.
It is not clear which of the four Asian pangolin species the meat comes from.