Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has commended the Bureau of Customs (BOC)on the successful interception of over 700 live venomous tarantulas at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport earlier this week.

“The BOC agents and personnel who discovered the shipment should give themselves a pat on the back for stopping the illegal trade of these wildlife species,” Cimatu said.

The tarantulas, with a combined estimated value of P310,000, were concealed in gift-wrapped boxes for oatmeal, cookies and tea shipped from Poland. The interception also led to the arrest of two suspects, one of them is the consignee of the shipment.

Cimatu hailed the seizure of 757 tarantulas and apprehension of the suspects as “another victory in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.”

He also vowed that there will be no letup in the crackdown against poachers and wildlife traffickers.

“We will never get tired of rescuing wildlife and put their tormentors before the bar of justice so as to teach people a lesson that wildlife species are not commodities for trade,” Cimatu said.

The suspects and the tarantula shipment were turned over to the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade, or simply Task Force POGI, which is composed of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.

BMB senior ecosystems management specialist Rogelio Demellentes Jr. said the two suspects who claimed the shipment at NAIA’s Central Mail Exchange Center have already been charged for violating Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources and Protection Act, which defines and penalizes illegal wildlife trade.

Under the law, unlawful trading, possession and transport of wildlife species are punishable by a jail term of up two years and a fine of not more than P200,000.

Demellentes said the task force will coordinate with the Polish government for the possible return of the trantula shipment to its country of origin.

In the meantime, the tarantulas are placed under quarantine and observation, and will be under the custody of the BMB pending resolution of the case. ###