A Chinese fishing boat found carrying thousands of kilograms of scaly anteater meat has been removed from a Philippine marine sanctuary where it run aground last week, a coast guard spokesman said yesterday.
The F/V Min Long Yu was towed yesterday to the Palawan provincial capital of Puerto Princesa southwest of Manila, a day after it was extricated from the Tubbataha National Marine Park, Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo said.
The boat’s 12 Chinese crew members have been in custody since they struck the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site on April 8 and have been charged with poaching.
Balilo said the boat will be held in custody by the coast guard and will be checked again for any hidden compartments.
Authorities found no fish or any contraband on board during an initial inspection when they boarded the boat for the first time a day after it struck the reef.
During closer inspection days later, coast guard officers discovered 400 boxes, each containing 25kg to 30kg of frozen pangolins, or scaly anteaters, with their scales already removed.
Wildlife officials are still trying to determine which of the four Asian pangolin species the meat comes from.
The International Union of Conservation of Nature lists two as endangered: the Sunda, or Malayan, pangolin and the Chinese pangolin.
Two others, including the Philippine pangolin endemic to Palawan, are classified as near threatened.
The animals are protected in many Asian nations.
Despite an international trade ban in effect since 2002, trade continues illicitly.
The meat and scales of the pangolin are believed to cure various ailments.
Balilo said the Tubbataha Management Office, which oversees the marine park, will examine the extent of reef damage to determine the amount of fines to be imposed on the Chinese boat owners.