DENR National Capital Region, through its Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit (WTMU), has taken custody of 375 live black ants customs officials seized at Central Mail Exchange Center (CEMEC) in Pasay City early last week.
The two parcels came from Wroclaw, Poland and were sent separately – the first one in December 21, 2021, and the last, in January 03, 2022. The parcels, however, remained unclaimed, prompting officials to investigate its contents.
Upon inspection, custom examiners and WTMU personnel found 130 live black ants in the first parcel, each sealed in specimen tubes together with nutrient solution. The second parcel, on the other hand, had 245 live ants, also sealed in specimen tubes.
These parcels do not have the required Wildlife Import Permit from DENR or any legal document from the country of origin. After the inventory, WTMU personnel immediately took the ants to the Wildlife Rescue Center at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City for proper care, identification, and disposition.
Ants and other insects have recently gained popularity among exotic pet owners, with some countries like China and Japan reporting an increase in the number of smuggling cases. In 2019 for example, Chinese customs reported intercepting 1,000 live ants from a parcel from Britain.
Earlier this year, the WTMU also seized smuggled tarantulas and spiderlings at the NAIA. Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan lauded the efforts of the WTMU personnel and customs officials. She also cautioned exotic pet enthusiasts from engaging in illegal wildlife trade as it harms wild populations of animals and plants and negatively impacts our natural resources. She also said that exotic species can carry disease and threaten local ecosystems, possibly even human health.
“Zoonosis” or the transmission of disease to humans from animals, Director Caancan said, is “a real threat.” She cited the global spread of coronavirus – which reportedly came from wildlife – as an example.
“We need to follow rules on importing wildlife, as these were set in place to protect our ecosystem”, Director Caancan advised. She said permits are required when importing or exporting wildlife, especially as the Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“R.A. 9147, otherwise known as the ‘Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001’ strictly regulates the importation of wildlife for reasons of national security, environmental and public health protection, and compliance with international treaties and obligations, such as CITES”, she added.