Release of sambar deer is ‘explicitly illegal’

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Posted on Jul 15 2020
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The release of deer in Pagan is “explicitly illegal,” according to Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) in a Facebook post. However, in a “special permit/hunting for the Northern Islands,” given to the Marianas Visitors Authority, dated June 18, 2020, its release was permitted by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Sablan quoted Public Law §17-23 – 2 CMC Section 5803(i): “Purposeful release of captive deer, especially domesticated progeny, into the wild is prohibited. Penalties for purposeful release of captive animals will be imposed and set by the director but will not exceed $1,000 per animal. A person who has previously held a captive rearing permit and purposefully released animals into the wild will not be eligible to renew or obtain another permit.”

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, along with Youtuber Robert Arrington, who hosts Deer Meat for Dinner, released four deer, two females and two males, into Pagan. Before that, the video showed DLNR Secretary Anthony Benavente helping Torres and Arrington capture the deer to release on Pagan.

“It may also be a violation of federal law,” said Sablan “The Endangered Species Act protects not only endangered and threatened species, but also the habitats in which they are found. Pagan is home to several federally listed endangered and threatened species. Sambar deer are a non-native species known to have destructive impacts on sensitive island ecosystems that are home to plants and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.”

Sablan added that DLNR has the authority to enforce the laws that protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources.

“Problematically, it was the DLNR secretary that issued a permit for the release of Sambar deer on Pagan, an activity that clearly violates CNMI law and may also violate the federal Endangered Species Act,” said Sablan. “What’s wrong with releasing Sambar deer on Pagan? Plenty.”

“This was your [Torres] idea,” said Arrington in his second YouTube video. “He calls me while I’m still in states, and said ‘Hey Rob, typhoon wrecked a big area that we keep a lot of animals, there’s four deer there, and we got to find a home. What do you think about taking these sambar deer and turning them loose on Pagan?”

In the governor’s news briefing yesterday, Torres said that along with the permit from DLNR, he spoke to Northern Islands Mayor Vicente Santos to get approval of releasing the four deer. Additionally, he said it was his idea, and not Arrington.

Although the permit was for Arrington and MVA’s managing director Priscilla Iakopo, Torres said that he initiated it after bringing up the idea with Benavente.

“It was under my request… and part of the promotion,” said Torres.

Controversy on burning on Pagan

According to Torres, Arrington reached out to Santos to ask if he could burn some parts that were infected with “big” centipedes.

“Rob went to the mayor and said, mayor there’s a lot of insects, centipedes over there, certain part of that, so we can get rid of the insects,” said Torres. “Mayor said yes and that’s a good idea… make sure it is contained.”

Torres said there was 10 to 15 people there at the site when Arrington had lit up the area. Additionally, Torres said that there was new grass growing before they left.

“It’s not a wildfire that you see, it’s not a wildfire that burnt any tree, in fact, I don’t think there was one tree that was burnt down,” said Torres.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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