Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ursula Island Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary Palawan Phillipines

Ursula Island Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary is approximately 20 kms. Ursula Island located in Rio, Tuba Village, Bataraza, Palawan. About 236 kilometers from Puerto Princesa City, the town of Bataraza can be reached by bus or jeepney which departs daily from the city. From Bataraza, proceed to Rio Tuba and then take a pumpboat ride to Ursula Island. Bataraza is 5-6 hours’ drive from Puerto Princesa City. We are seriously thinking of sailing straight to Kota Kinabalu for an overnight run from Balabac. It would mean saying 'au revoir' to the others as they are going to Kudat. Peerliane will be there for a while having her bottom painted. We'll see how we feel this afternoon. Off Brooke's Point in southern Palawan, about one hour by boat from Rio Tuba, Bataraza.

The vegetation is made up of old growth lowland forest with moderate undergrowth, consisting mostly of tree saplings and seedlings. Fishermen frequent the island and there are numerous trails to wells dug in the interior and some small nipa huts. Ursula Island is notable for the large concentrations of imperial pigeons that roast there, including numbers of the threatened grey Imperial-pigeons. Birds at flight in Ursula Island however, it has been reported that the numbers of pigeons roosting there have declined substantially in recent years. Mantanani Scops-owl, a restricted-range small-island specialist, has also been recorded on the island.

Ursula Island Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) which takes charge of the whole management of the island has ordered a temporary closure of the sanctuary from visitors so as to give time for the birds to recuperate and for the PAMB to adopt necessary measures in order to fully protect the whole island while various exposure activities is on going. But the PAMB is still a big problem today due to the presence of fishermen in the island. It is clear that there has been a significant decline in the numbers of roosting pigeons using Ursula. From an estimated 150,000 to a few thousand over the last 60 years. Natural predators such as the line Slender Arboreal Snake Dendrelaphis caudolinatus may have had significant impact on populations of nesting birds. This is the only snake recorded at Ursula and it is possible that it is only a recent colonizer of the island, perhaps brought there by man.

Ursula island is a tiny white sand island with natural vegetation including many pandanus trees. As we rowed ashore we could see a crowd of children waiting under a tree. Our attempts at 'hello', 'Good afternoon', 'Kumasta' seemed to not be understood and the children just looked back at us. We walked towards the fishing boats and lean-tos on the beach and repeated out greetings to some of the adults there. He received a couple of hellos and they indicated it was ok for us to walk around the island. I don't think much English is spoken here. It didn't take long to walk around the island. It is very beautiful - clear water and white coral pieces on the beach. We had a wonderful swim when we got back. Sunset drinks and nibbles were enjoyed by all 3 crews on board Peerliane. Franck played the accordion and Mary sang Scottish songs. I played with Peerliane's cat 'Acra' .He seems very happy on board.


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