Five dead crocodiles, 14 critically endangered turtles and a cache of other rare species have been found in the home of a suspected wildlife trader in one of the Philippines' biggest slums, the government said Friday.
The juvenile saltwater crocodiles, as well as 90 birds, were killed by the trader or his aides shortly before police and environment officials raided the place Wednesday, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said.
He denounced the unnamed suspects' "cruelty".
"What's particularly alarming about this poaching incident is that there were reports that most of these endangered animals were intentionally killed to avoid detection by authorities," Paje said in a statement.
The authorities also found 14 live Philippine forest and pond turtles in the address in Manila's Tondo slum district, he added.
The turtle species are considered "critically endangered" according to global "red list" compiled by the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
All the animals, which also included 78 Palawan hill mynahs and 12 blue-naped parrots, are protected by Philippine law, which prohibits their trade or capture.
Paje said an informant tipped off the government that a wildlife trafficker was shipping protected animals to Manila from the western Philippine island of Palawan, one of the country's last wildlife refuges.
They were to have been sold in Manila markets known for peddling wild animals as pets, Paje said.
Police and wildlife officers found the dead animals outside the house, which reeked of a foul odour, he added.
"The... administration is dead serious about stopping not only the destruction of our environment but also wildlife crime," Paje said.
Last month, the Philippines crushed five tonnes of smuggled elephant tusks, making it the first country in Asia to destroy its ivory stockpiles in support of global efforts to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade.
["Jumping Saltwater Crocodile In The Wild" on Shutterstock]