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Three poachers who shot and butchered a critically-endangered tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) in Mindoro Occidetal escaped from forest rangers who arrested them Friday, August 28.
The rangers spotted the poachers Friday morning drying meat near the base of Mt. McGowen inside the Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, a protected area and an ASEAN Heritage Park.
The authorities surrounded and caught two poachers while a third escaped.
The park rangers and wardens confiscated two pugakang or homemade shotguns and a sack of tamaraw meat, to be dried and illegally sold as tapa or buffalo bush jerky.
When interrogated, the poachers said: “Pang kain lang po ito, tapos yung iba pang benta.” (We’ll eat some of the meat and sell the rest on the market.)
Three hours after they were arrested, however, the two suspects escaped and ran into the jungle.
Tamaraws are the world’s most endangered buffalo species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies tamaraws as critically-endangered, the highest risk-rating for any species.
Only around 600 tamaraws are left worldwide, most found in 4 isolated areas in Mindoro. They are legally protected under the Wildlife Act or RA-9147. Killing endangered wildlife is punishable of up to 12 years of jail time plus a fine of up to P1 million.
Dedicated rangers and wardens of the Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) and Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) have been conserving the tamaraw for decades. There were less than 100 tamaraws in 1969.
“Poachers might be using the COVID-19 lockdown as an opportunity to illegally enter our country’s protected areas and hunt animals. We’ll see to it that these poachers are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” vows TCP head Neil Anthony del Mundo.
Despite being underequipped and underfunded, TCP’s rangers and wardens continue patrolling forestland to protect tamaraw – facing armed poachers, snakes, leeches, flash floods and hidden animal traps on a daily basis.
Just one of TCP’s 24 rangers is a regular employee with benefits. One ranger plus 32 of the 35 park wardens recently lost their jobs when the park closed due to the pandemic. – Rappler.com