Chinese boat crashes in protected coral reef... with thousands of illegally killed pangolins on board
Double troubleIt was already bad enough that a Chinese boat crashed into the Tubbataha reef, a protected coral reef off the coast of the Philippines, but what the coast guard found inside increased massively the size of the environmental disaster: 400 boxes containing around 10,000 kg of frozen Pangolin meat, an endangered scaly anteater. Pangolins are already extinct in China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, because many people there consider its meat a delicacy and think its scales have beneficial properties. Poachers are now threatening it pretty much everywhere it still can be found... Too bad we can't seem to catch them unless they're so incompetent that they crash their ships.
Chris Shepherd, an expert at wildlife trade group Traffic and based in Malaysia, told the Guardian: "There is no way a slow-breeding species like the pangolin can withstand this huge pressure for long." He said the enforcement of laws had not kept pace with demand for the pangolin meat and scales, which can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogramme in China: "We have seen a really obscene amount of seizures but very few people are arrested and even fewer convicted." (source)
The crew of the boat potentially faces heavy fines and years in jail, but chances are they are only the middlemen and the real poachers are still out there. To truly make a difference, anti-poaching laws would have to be beefed up and much better enforced.
As for the Tubbataha coral reef, it is an extremely precious biodiversity hotspot: "Research of scientists visiting the reefs since the 1980s revealed that the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park contains no less than 600 fish species, 360 coral species, 11 shark species, 13 dolphin and whale species, and 100 bird species. The reefs also serve as a nesting ground for Hawksbill and Green sea turtles."