Nearly 300 smuggled birds from Indonesia burned

The trader, identified as Mike Artocilla, 37, admitted that smuggling of wildlife stock has been going on with suppliers from the islands in Indonesia even if he knew the perils of the avian flu. 

The environment department's Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau said 270 wild birds were burned in government incinerators in Sasa Monday afternoon to prevent further complications.      

About 267 of the stock were identified as wild birds sourced from an island called Halmajira, near the Indonesian city of Bitung. 

The birds were identified to be pet animals, among them the Sulfur crested Cockatoo, Eclectic Parrot, Read headed lorry, Birds of Paradise, and the expensive Palm Cockatoo.

Also burned were a Warty pig (wild boar), Wallaby, a kangaroo type; and a saltwater crocodile.

Reports on the number of animals decimated, however, vary. Artocilla told MindaNews at the NBI office there were a total of 136 heads while PAWB reported 270 based on estimated head count at the raid site.

Artocilla told MindaNews his clients buy the birds and animals mostly for household use. He said the stock is from his third trip from Indonesia. 

Operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation intercepted the stock from Artocilla’s seaside farm in a residential area in Lasang district, this city, near the boundary of Davao del Norte.

NBI agent Excel Hernandez told MindaNews in an interview that Artocilla surrendered when confronted about his illegal business.

NBI operatives raided the property along Sagittarius Street in Navarro Subdivision Sunday after months of surveillance.

Hernandez said they received intelligence information that a group was pushing illegal drugs and firearms and human trafficking, using wildlife stock as cover.

But the pursuit operations yielded no proof of illegal drugs and firearms trade. Hernandez said there was also no trace of human smuggling.

But he admitted that an Indonesian national, identified as Randy Mandumi, 20, was held for lack of immigration papers.           

Artocilla admitted in an interview with reporters that he goes to the Indonesian island to buy wildlife from local contacts there who, he said, also catch the stock illegally.

He said Mandumi is his interpreter when he transports the stock once in three months and delivers it to Dabawenyo buyers who order the stock before he sails four days and four nights to the Indonesian island on a ferry.

Artocilla claimed he applied for a farm permit at the DENR in April but failed to get it as he had to leave for Indonesia.

PAWB officials are preparing to file a case against Artocilla for violation of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. 

The law requires an import permit from the DENR prior to the issuance of the phytosanitary or veterinary health certificate, which Artocillo did not have.  

Importation of exotic animals also requires bio-safety measures and import risk analysis.

A PAWB official who asked not to be quoted said the threat of bird flu infection prompted them to quickly burn the stock.