Saturday, May 14, 2011

Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary Endangered Wildlife Species in the Philippines

The Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the tourist spots in Palawan worth visiting. Its 3,700 hectare land area is home to different varieties of wildlife animals. Here one will be awed by the site of African animals such as giraffes, zebras, elands, and gazelles mingling with local Philippine animals such as the Palawan bearcat, peacock pheasant, and mouse deer. There is modest accommodation for guests intending to wile their night away. The Philippine is high on the list of priority countries in the world for wildlife conservation because of its remarkable biological diversity, large number of endemic animal and plant species, inadequate wildlife protection measures, and high rate of deforestation. 

Of the 180 species of mammals in the Philippines, 115 (67%) are endemic. To date, 9 mammals have already been categorized as "endangered" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These are the Golden- Crowned Flying Fox, Negros Naked-Backed Fruit Bat, Philippine Tube-Nosed Fruit Bat, Panay Bushy Tailed Cloud Rat, Ilin-Tailed Cloud Rat, Visayan Warty Pig, Calamian Hog-Deer, Visayan Spotted Deer and Tamaraw.

 Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary

The tamaraw is a small buffalo found only in the island of Mindoro, south of Manila. It closely
resembles the Philippine water buffalo (carabao) except for its massive horns, which grow upward and caudally forming a V. Its population is down to 300 now due to wanton destruction of its habitat and poaching. The Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) was established to restore the tamaraw habitat, conduct information and education campaigns, and population and habitat studies. The Philippine eagle is the largest bird of prey in the Philippines and, perhaps, one of the largest in the world. They used to be seen in large number in dipterocarp forests but because of illegal logging, agricultural practices and collection for illegal trade, only around 300 Philippine eagles are left in the country today. The Philippine Raptors Conservation Program (PRCP), Center for Philippine Raptors (CPR) and the Philippine Eagle Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PECFI) were established to protect the Philippine eagle and other endangered birds of prey and their habitats.

The Philippines, composed of 7,101 islands, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia with the vast Pacific
Ocean on the west and South China Sea on the east. It is blessed with rich natural resources such as rare plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. However, it disheartening to note also that no country in the world has its plants and animals being destroyed at an alarming rate than the Philippines. For instance, the Philippines has already lost about 97% of its original vegetation and has even more critically endangered avian and mammalian species than any other country (Tacio, 2000).

For this, the Philippines has been tagged one of the "hot spots" in the world for conservation concern. Other reasons are the remarkable biodiversity of animal and plant species in the country, extraordinarily high percentage of endemicity among the species wherein some 67% of these species are present only in the Philippines and, high rate of deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction (Oliver and Heany,1997). To these a fourth reason can be added and that is the apparent lack of political will to enforce existing laws to safeguard wildlife species and their habitat.

 Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary

Countless national and local legislation have been passed to protect  Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary and their habitat but unfortunately they seemed to be ignored rather than followed. As a result deforestation and hunting continue at an alarming rate. The biodiversity of the Philippine islands is exceptionally rich as shown by its 556 avian species, 172 (44%) of which are endemic, 180 mammalian species, 115 (67%) of which are endemic, and 293 reptilian and amphibian species, 214 (73%) of which are endemic (Oliver and Heany, 1997).

The Philippines ranks fourth in the world with the highest number of threatened species totaling 384. Malaysia is first with 804, Indonesia second with 763, and India third with 459 species. It is interesting to note that these are all Asian countries. In the 1994 Review of the Distribution and Conservation Status of the Birds of the World by the Birdlife International, the Philippines topped the list of countries in terms of the number of critically endangered endemic bird species, and second after Brazil for the number of most threatened bird species under endangered and critically endangered categories. Its national bird, the Philippine eagle and national animal, the tamaraw are likewise seriously threatened with extinction. The rainforests homes to most of the wildlife species are also fast disappearing giving way to agricultural expansion and urbanization.

Endangered Wildlife Species in the Philippines

What are endangered species? According to the definition given by the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), endangered species are plants or animals that
are being threatened with extinction due to excessive hunting and large scale destruction of their habitat. Conservationists all over the world are alarmed by the 1996 Report of the International Union for IUCN stating that the number of critically endangered mammals in the world has increased significantly from 169-180, primates from 13-19, fresh water turtles from 10-24, and birds from 168-182. Of the list for endangered mammalian species, nine are endemic to the Philippine islands.

These are the Goldencrowned flying fox, Negros naked-backed fruit bat, Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat, Panay bushy-tailed cloud rat, Ilin hairy-tailed cloud rat, Visayan warty pig, Calamian hog deer, Visayan spotted deer, and tamaraw. Among the critically endangered avian species in the report is the Philippine eagle. Although no endangered marine mammals were mentioned in the report, whale sharks are fast disappearing from Philippine waters (Esplanada, 2000). For example, the Rhicodon typus (also known as pating patola in Zambales, toko in Mindoro, balilan in Cebu and Bohol and butanding in Bicol and Palawan), which regularly visits the waters of Donsol, Sorsogon (located at the tip of Bicol Peninsula) from November to May are rarely sighted in Philippine waters now.

These gentle, polka dotted whale sharks are widely hunted by local fishermen for its meat and fins, which are reported to command a high price abroad. To prevent the Richodon typus from completely disappearing from the Philippine waters, the Philippine government in 1998 declared the whale shark endangered; thus, banning poaching and exporting of its meat, which is a delicacy in some Asian countries. Other non-governmental conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Fund Philippines (Kabang Kalikasan ng Pilipinas) and large business conglomerates like Nokia Philippines, Megaworld Corporation and International Container Terminal Services Incorporated have supported the government's campaign to protect the whale shark.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer a leading Philippine newspaper also supports the save the whale shark campaign. Other endangered Philippine species are the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), Leatherback turtle (Dermochyles coriacea), Philippine crocodile also known as Philippine freshwater crocodile and Mindoro crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis), Indo-Pacific crocodile or salt water crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Mindoro bleeding heart (Gallicolumba platenae), Mindoro bleeding heart (Ducula mindorensis), lesser eagle owl (Mimizuki gurneyi), Philippine eagle owl (Bubo philippensis), silvery kingfisher (Alcedo argentata), Mindoro hornbill (Penelopides mindorensis), celestial monarch (Hypothymis coelestis) and Isabela oriole (Oriolus isabellae).

The Philippines - Japan Crocodile Farming Institute (CFI) based in Palawan Island has successfully bred the Crocodylus mindorensis in captivity. Only the endangered terrestial mammals (cloud rats, fruit bats, deers, wild pig and tamaraw) and the Philippine eagle will be described in this paper.


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