Wildlife Trafficker Denied Re-Entry Into Philippines

18 Critically Endangered Philippine forest turtles were returned to Palawan after being seized from a smuggler (identified as Zhang Wen Wei) in Hong Kong. © Katala Foundation Inc.

A Chinese national identified as Zhang Wen Wei will not be allowed back into the Philippines after repeatedly being caught smuggling endangered wildlife out of the country into Hong Kong.

The Philippine Star says that the Philippine Consulate in Xiamen, China, has agreed to prevent Zhang from returning. Environment Secretary Ramon Paje told the news site that “there is no room for such kind of tourists, whose intention is to exploit our wildlife resources, especially those considered endemic and endangered”.

In February, Zhang was arrested in Hong Kong after attempting to smuggle 36 turtles, 24 lizards, 16 pythons, one gliding snake, two Mangrove Snakes and a Common Mock Viper out of the Philippines. 20 of the turtles were baby Philippine forest turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis), which are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. The other 16 were Southeast Asian box turtles (Cuora amboinensis), listed as Vulnerable in most range states. Zhang was fined just HK $8,000 (US $1,031) for this offense, according to the Sun Star.

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development reported that the 18 Philippine forest turtle hatchlings who survived were repatriated to the Philippines in April and then released back into the wild in June, after being cared for by the Philippine Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (PFTCP) of the Katala Foundation Inc. (KFI).

Then in June, Zhang was apprehended upon his return from the Philippines on a Cebu Pacific flight with 137 various reptiles and imprisoned in Hong Kong for six weeks.

105 of the reptiles — 39 Philippine forest turtles, 19 Mindanao water monitors, 46 Southeast Asian box turtles and one reticulated python — were returned to the Philippines earlier this month. The Philippine forest turtles are under the care of PFTCP, and the other animals are with the National Wildlife Rescue and Research Center (NWRRC).

Visit the Katala Foundation website to learn more about how you can help the Philippine Freshwater Turtle Conservation Program (PFTCP).


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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.