The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday honored 79 individuals for their contribution to government efforts to end wildlife trafficking and trade, marking the local celebration of the World Wildlife Day (WWD) this year.

Now in its fourth year, the Wildlife Enforcement Awards recognized law enforcement personnel and private individuals who were instrumental in the arrest and filing of cases against wildlife crime offenders, and the rescue of various wildlife species, most of them are considered endangered.

Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) led the awarding ceremony, which was held at the BMB Training Ceremony inside the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

"Protecting our country's rich wildlife resources is quite a challenge for the BMB with our limited resources. These awards allow us to recognize private entities and non-DENR personnel for their significant contribution to wildlife law enforcement," Lim said.

The awardees include 34 personnel from the National Bureau of Investigation, 18 from the Philippine Coast Guard, nine from the Bureau of Customs, six from the Pasay City government, five from the Department of Justice, and two from the parcel delivery company FedEx.

Also recognized were five private individuals who provided other forms of support such as photo-documentation, species identification, and monitoring and surveillance.

In December 2013, the United Nations declared every March 3 as World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world's flora and fauna.

The date coincides with the day the CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, was adopted. So far, a total of 183 countries are parties to the convention.

The global theme for this year's WWD celebration is "Listen to the young voices," aiming to encourage the youth to take an active role in wildlife conservation and the fight against the trafficking and illegal trade of wildlife species.

In keeping with the theme, the BMB also hosted the 2nd National Wildlife Quiz Bee contest for 30 Grade 9 students from public schools in Central Luzon, CALABARZON, and the National Capital Region.

Lim said the contest aims to encourage students to give attention to developments in wildlife, as well as raise awareness and appreciation for the country’s rich wildlife resources.

Also as part of the WWD celebration, a youth forum on crocodile conservation was held in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province. The event aimed at educating the youth on the ecological importance of crocodiles, and threats to their existence, such as habitat conversion and overexploitation.

The forum was organized by the DENR Palawan provincial office and the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines, an active partner of the government in promoting the sustainable use of the saltwater crocodile. ###