The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

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We, members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, have recently come across several websites that demonstrate a blatant disregard for the law, particularly the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act RA # 9147.

The pictures in these websites clearly show faces of the hunters and dead birds, some of which are considered as vulnerable under the Red List of threatened birds of the world. The penalty for killing or destroying vulnerable wildlife species as stated in RA # 9147 is imprisonment of two (2) years and one (1) day to four (4) years and/or a fine of Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00) to Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00). The law specifically states further in Sec. 27 that unless otherwise allowed in accordance with the Act, it shall be unlawful for any person to willfully and knowingly exploit wildlife resources and their habitats, collecting, hunting or possessing wildlife, their by-products and derivatives. As such, even the mere possession of these species, evidenced by their very own pictures on their very own websites is punishable by law.

We accept the hunting of game for food, culling (in the case of overpopulation of certain species) and for ritual purposes, but we fail to see how defiance of the law qualifies sports hunters as conservationists, especially when what they proudly display are dead birds of a vulnerable species, one that is found nowhere else in the world and of which not enough studies have determined the capacity to survive the loss of habitat and other threats.

The Philippine Duck counts as one of the many birds that are displayed on several websites as having been shot down in numbers that horrify scientists and birders alike. It is endemic to the Philippines and classified as vulnerable, with only 5,000 to 10,000 birds left. The majesty of these creatures in flight, having been often seen by many a proud birder, cannot fail to inspire. That is why the interruption of their delicate V formation by the shots of hunters including some members of the Philippine National Shooting Team makes us shudder.

Many hunters call themselves conservationists and we cannot argue with the closeness to nature that hunting may inspire, coming as it does from our very evolutionary story as a species. But it is time to take a step back and consider our common impact on the planet as a species. It takes more than closeness to prey to know the current status, remaining numbers, range and the extent of remaining habitat, conservation status and the feeding requirements of our co-inhabitants. Conservation is painstaking work of watching, recording, watching, comparing and watching again, and nowhere in this process involves killing except for the necessary type specimen.

We understand that hunters want habitat conservation as well, for them to continue enjoying their sport. May we remind them that the law was passed because there is precisely very little wild habitat left in this country. In other countries, wild habitats are kept due to the high fees charged for highly regulated hunting activities. Hunters here know how quickly these wild places dwindle into settlements, farms and urban areas and this alone should be a message that unless we are able to restore the balance, revive the wild places, hunting should have no place in this country.

While hunting gives a certain opportunity to immerse in the wild, the kind of conservation that this country, the hottest of the hotspots, sorely needs is an entirely different kind. A kind that finds out how much is left and how to save and expand on that. Shooting at vulnerable species, posing with them in great numbers and plastering them on websites does not inspire confidence that the hunters claiming to be conservationists are indeed so or that they can police their ranks to be so.

We believe that hunters are people who can be reasoned with and if they know the score, will restrain themselves from wiping out species. We appeal to them to find out as much as they can in terms of their impact on remaining habitats, breeding populations, and act with the precautionary principle in mind. We urge them to stop all sports hunting in observance of the law until strict regulation that can aid conservation is proven by scientific and objective data and analysis. Self-regulation by the hunters and high-level monitoring by an empowered and resource-rich State may be pre-requisites to a Philippines wherein hunting could be allowed.

Unless hunting is based on figures, unless sports hunting revenues can pay for the conservation of sufficient wild habitat, until we have a need to cull specific invasive or pest populations, and until the ranks of hunters can police themselves to strictly follow the rules, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines cannot accept that hunting contributes in any way to conservation.

For as long as vulnerable and endemic species whose numbers are dwindling before our very eyes and whose habitats are fast being taken over by development that is unfriendly to the wild co-inhabitants of this archipelago, any form of sports hunting should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We appeal to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau to demonstrate speedy and effective enforcement of the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. These are crimes against the Filipino people and future generations in the global community who may never know these creatures being hunted to extinction.