What is the value of a parrot soaring above a forest? How about a marine turtle grazing serenely by the coast?
The reasons for conserving wildlife range from the moral obligation to prevent its extinction to more pragmatic reasons like wildlife tourism or protection of natural systems that benefits local communities.
To better appreciate the value of marine turtles and blue-naped parrots, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), and NIRAS Asia Manila sought expert counsel for an economic valuation review of wildlife on August 12, 2020. Led by environmental economist Dr. Agustin Arcenas, the review reported analysis of the monetary value and ecosystem benefits derived from marine turtles and blue-naped parrots, representing some of the most iconic wildlife of the Philippines.
“The study aims to convince decision-makers that many animals are worth more alive than dead by assessing the trade, tourism and ecological value of marine turtles and blue-naped parrots,” explained Dr. Arcenas.
Other speakers included two marine turtle experts, Cecilia Fischer from ADB and independent consultant Romeo Trono. Two parrot experts – ornithologist Dr. Juan Carlos Gonzalez of the University of the Philippines in Los Banos (UPLB) and biologist Peter Widmann from the Katala Foundation – also shared their insights. Forty-two representatives from government, academe, international aid, and nonprofit agencies attended the online event, which was facilitated by the project Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines (CIWT).
The Philippines is not only a biodiversity hotspot with at least 700 threatened species but also an illegal wildlife trade (IWT) hub, having served as an illegal transshipment point for elephant ivory, as a source country of wildlife and wildlife byproducts such as pangolins and marine turtles, as well as a destination of trades, such as parrots kept as pets.
“People know that wildlife plays an important role in balancing the environment, but its economic value has never been taken seriously,” added DENR-BMB Wildlife Resources Division OIC Atty. Theresa Tenazas. “This study can finally give our enforcers, law practitioners, prosecutors and judges the correct valuation of wildlife – preventing the dismissal of wildlife cases because of the inability to establish their economic value, an argument often used by offenders to escape conviction.”
The CIWT project is pushing for stronger legal reforms against IWT, enhanced capacity-building for law enforcers, plus demand reduction measures targeting consumers, with emphasis on marine turtles and blue-naped parrots, which are legally-protected animals, nevertheless regularly captured for consumption, curio and pet trade.
“Biology, conservation science and economics must be meshed together to defeat the illegal wildlife trade and we are glad to see that the Philippines is taking a leading role in this,” concluded ADB environmental specialist Dr. Francesco Ricciardi. (IWT Project/ Gregg Yan)