Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Horrible Hunt

Hunting has always been horrible for me. I watched Bambi ONCE, years ago when I was a child. The reason I never watched it again that first viewing was that I was too disturbed when Bambi's mom was shot by a hunter. I vowed never to watch it again, and I never did.

Now as an adult, I am faced again with the same horrifying issue of hunting. But this time, it is real.

Last week, some of my birder friends took a trip to Adams in Ilocos Norte. Elated after seeing a family of Rufous Hornbills in the forest, they saw a man by the side of the road. He had a rifle. And he had a dead juvenile hornbill. When my friend raised his camera to document what they were seeing, the man even held up the dead bird and posed for the camera.

This was the photo my friend took of the hunter with a hint of a smile on his face.
Why would you smile with something dead in your hands?
I would rather see him in a zoo, taking a selfie
with a hornbill in a cage rather than with a dead one.

They went to the police station to report what they saw but the policemen hesitated since they recognized the hunter and said that he was the son-in-law of the town's vice mayor and the son of a town councilor. I guess these affiliations render someone above the law? (Read the online news article here.)

It reminded me of the earlier incident of hunting by a prominent politician and his daughter, when they killed lots of Philippine Ducks. Below is my own screenshot of the daughter's photo collage of their "father-daughter bonding activity". Yes, she even made a photo collage out of it and posted it on her public account.

She took down this Instagram post when it went viral

The daughter denied having hunted in the Philippines, saying they shot the Philippine Ducks in another country. Too bad for her, she killed dozens of the only endemic duck species in the Philippines. (Click here for the definition of ENDEMIC.) Even worse for her is her own father's admission recently to having shot the ducks, which he claimed were pests to the farmers and that he was only doing the farmers a favor by shooting them. For everyone's information, ducks feed on the kuhol (snails) that are the real pest to farmer's crops. They killed the "natural pesticide" instead of the real pests. Smart. Who are the real pests in this story then?

Aside from the killing of Philippine wildlife, poaching is also another horrible practice associated with hunting. Just a few days ago, this photo surfaced on social media. It's a raptor - a bird of prey that should be soaring in the sky above us. But here, it is all wrapped up and packaged for shipping via airplane.

Yes, it is still alive.
I have no words.
An obviously frightened Philippine Eagle Owl
also "ready" for shipping...
Horrible.

And you'd think only the "big birds" fall victim to these atrocities, but no! Even the birds we see (and most of the time even ignore) fall victim to these murderous hunters whose idea of fun is taking a life. Yes, the caption reads: "1st Timerrrrrrr saraaaaap".

They killed common backyard birds, yes. It doesn't make it ok.
 Aside from being illegal, did they ever stop to think
if these birds had nests with chicks?

So, after getting A LOT of criticisms on her photo collage, the girl reportedly apologized on Facebook already, saying they did not know that killing birds was against the law and that they didn't kill any endangered species anyway. Say what?!?

Ok, ok, ok.  (inhale, exhale)

So, a lot of people do not know the law (or so they say.) For their benefit, let me emphasize parts of the Wildlife Act (R.A. No. 9147) pertinent to the issue I am writing about. The following are ILLEGAL ACTS:

  • killing and destroying wildlife species
  • inflicting injury which cripples and/or impairs the reproductive system of wildlife species
  • trading of wildlife
  • collecting, hunting, or possessing wildlife
  • gathering or destroying of active nests, nest trees, hosts plants
  • maltreating and/or inflicting other injuries
  • transporting of wildlife

Nowhere in the Wildlife Act does it states that these only cover endangered species. The Wildlife Act covers ALL wildlife species in the Philippines. ALL. Even the maya birds we see everyday are protected by this law. 

But more than the law, isn't it also a matter of humanity? What joy is there in taking a life? Unless you're a serial killer or psychopath, I cannot imagine what kicks one gets out of murdering an innocent animal.

I understand there is skill involved and the thrill of the hunt is exhilarating. Yes, yes. I can get that. I enjoy the shooting games in the arcade and game consoles too. But times have changed. We all have to accept that.

We've all heard stories of our fathers, uncles, and grandparents who used to hunt in their childhood. I have friends who used to hunt in their youth. But times have changed. Before, they had lush forests and there weren't too many people around. fast forward to now, there are just too many people hunting too little wildlife. Add to that habitat destruction that also depletes the number of birds in our forests and grasslands. The birds and other animals are on the losing end. And hunting and poaching them isn't helping in the least bit! There is a more responsible way of enjoying nature that also involves skill and gives you an amazing thrill. Why don't you try birdwatching: it's hunting, without the blood.

So what do we do??? 
  • Let us all be responsible stewards. We should take care and be proud of the amazing natural environment our country has been blessed with. We shouldn't buy Philippine wildlife to be kept as pets! They belong in the wild. As a child, I used to beg my dad for a myna and never got one. It's only now that I understood his reasons: they should be kept free in the wild.
  • Let us all be advocates. If we have relatives or friends engaged in hunting, we should do our part in helping them realize the consequences of their past time. Remember, times have changed. Your lolo who used to hunt in the forests by himself now has lots of grandchildren who are hunting in what remains of the destroyed forests. Tama na.
  • Let us all be vigilant. If we see incidents such as what I posted above, and even cases of illegal logging and other forms of abuse to the environment, it is our responsibility to report them. You may report illegal activities to the Biodiversity Management Bureau (formerly the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau). Their phone number is +(63 2) 9246031-35 and +(63 2) 9240109. More contact information can be found here.
Let's all do our part... no matter how sad and hopeless the situation may seem.