In 2008, Richard Gutierrez made his first environmental documentary Signos, which tackled a timely and worldwide concern: climate change. A year after came the internationally awarded Planet Philippines, that showcased the beauty and rich biodiversity of the country. This year, Richard embarks on a more dangerous journey as he investigates what some experts are calling the third largest illegal business in the world—the wildlife trade.
Wildlife for Sale is a documentary that investigates the controversial wildlife trade in the Philippines and in neighboring Asian countries. It traces the intricate wildlife trafficking trail right from the source, to transshipment points, down to the markets where they are sold.
The documentary also traces how widespread the wildlife trade is across Asia. Documenting the trade from Myanmar, Thailand, China, Indonesia, and other parts of Southeast Asia, Wildlife for Sale is a comprehensive report on the state of wildlife in various parts of the world. The report uncovers what wild animals go through before they become souvenir items, pets in cages, and even delicacies on the table.
Wildlife for Sale also reveals the major root of the trade—the demand for wildlife. Poachers and traders during interviews admitted that engaging in this business is highly lucrative; and because of the demand, the sale of wild animals has become their bread and butter. A trader also narrates how they were able to ship animals from Palawan to Manila without being caught by authorities.
At the heart of this controversial issue is the very survival of species. Every year, more animals are added to the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), revealing an alarming trend. More and more of the world’s wildlife are pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction, and by excessive and illegal hunting.
Richard shares that working on the documentary was something very different from his other projects, "I know this can be dangerous but as they say, nothing good come easy."
There are also many "firsts" that he experienced while filming the documentary. He joins Palawan’s CIDG on a buy-bust operation against poachers and traders of Philippine Geckos. He and the team discover more than seventy geckos inside plastic bottles bound for Malaysia. Richard also surveys a seized foreign vessel that was caught fishing along Philippine waters. Remains of poached sea turtles or pawikan, critically endangered animals, are found inside the vessel. "Isa iyon sa mga hindi ko makakalimutang experience. Nagulat ako na nandoon pa ’yung mga poacher." (That is one of my most unforgettable experiences. I was shocked to see that the poachers were still on the vessel), Richard recalls.
The television host and environmental advocate says being part of this show is a learning experience because he was like a journalist on the field to cover. He spent a week filming and pursuing the story. "Coming from Planet Philippines and Signos, I wanted to do more and be more active, that’s why Wildlife for Sale is the perfect topic for me," says Richard.
Wildlife for Sale airs this Sunday, July 25, 10:30PM, on GMA-7 ’s Sunday Night Box Office (S.N.B.O.)