A Chinese vessel that ran aground on a protected Philippine coral reef was found to contain more than 20,000 pounds of meat from the scaly anteater, a protected species prized for its supposed medicinal qualities.
The ship hit an atoll on April 8 on Palawan Island, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. An additional search of the boat Sunday revealed 400 boxes, each containing between 25 to 30 kilograms of frozen anteaters. An international ban on trading scaly anteaters took effect in 2002, but illegal trade continues as the meat and scales of the animals are valued at over a hundred dollars per kilogram in China.
"It is bad enough that the Chinese have illegally entered our seas, navigated without boat papers and crashed recklessly into a national marine park and World Heritage Site," said World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines chief executive officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. "It is simply deplorable that they appear to be posing as fishermen to trade in illegal wildlife."
The ship's 12 crewmen are detained on charges of poaching and attempted bribery, with additional charges to come. They face up to 12 years imprisonment and fines of $300,000 for the poaching alone.