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Chavit's daughter claims they shot endemic ducks outside PHL

November 6, 2013 2:17pm

(A GMA News Exclusive)

Former Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson and his daughter Richelle have defended their hunting of the rare and endemic Philippine Ducks, which has drawn intense criticism from the birding community, by claiming in a statement that the killings of the protected species occurred overseas.

"The photo was not even taken in the Philippines. I had to take the photo down because of the influx of comments that were very mean to my family, even to my one-year-old son," said Richelle Singson-Michael in a statement emailed to GMA News Online, which broke the story on Monday and published the photos of the Singson father and daughter showing off about a dozen carcasses of the birds.

She added in her email that her statement was approved by her father.

She had posted the pictures on both her Facebook and Instagram accounts, where bird watchers quickly pointed out that killing the birds was a crime.

Richelle declined to name the country where she and her father, an avid hunter, shot the birds.

However, in a comment underneath the photos on her Facebook page, she had earlier revealed that the killings occurred "somewhere in Ilocos." The photos have been deleted from her timeline, but the screengrab is posted above, with her comment highlighted.

Orange crowns and other distinctive features mark the birds as unmistakable Philippine Ducks. "The ducks have stripes across the eyes a la Cleopatra. Girls describe it as eyeliners," said Mike Lu, a former president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Philippine Ducks, or Mallards (Anas

Philippine Ducks, found only in the Philippines, are rapidly
dwindling in number because of hunting and loss of habitat,
according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Criticized after posting photos of her and her father,
ex-Gov. Chavit Singson, with carcasses of the birds,
Richelle Singson-Michael claimed that the photos were
taken outside the Philippines. Cecil Morella

luzonica), is an endemic species, meaning it is found only in the Philippines, although so-called "vagrants," or individual birds, can sometimes get lost and end up in neighboring countries.

However, it would have been impossible for the Singsons to shoot that many Philippine Ducks anywhere else but the Philippines, according to wildlife biologist Carmela Española of the University of the Philippines' Institute of Biology.

"They don't occur in those numbers elsewhere," said Española, who has seen the photos of the Singsons with the dead birds. "It's a big loss. Very little is known about their ecology and population. There is nothing published about their breeding."

According to the IUCN, as long ago as 2002, fewer than 10,000 of the birds were believed to remain in the world.

"This duck is listed as Vulnerable," states the IUCN, "because it is undergoing a rapid and continuing decline owing to extensive over-hunting and the widespread conversion of its wetland habitats."

The Wildlife Protection Act prohibits the "killing and destroying of wildlife species, except when it is done as part of the religious rituals of established tribal groups or indigenous cultural communities."

On Tuesday, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau said it would launch an investigation into the reported hunting of wild ducks, which is illegal in the Philippines.

The Singsons insist that they did not break any laws.

"We definitely do not think that we are above the law. My Dad always taught us that the law is there for a reason, to be respected and obeyed," Richelle said in her statement.

"My Dad is an animal lover... He is a good Dad and leads a good example in telling his kids right from wrong. He would never promote anything illegal even for bonding purposes," she added.  Howie Severino/ China Jocson/ YA, GMA News