The Vanishing Wildlife in the Philippines
World Wildlife Day last March 3 passed without much visibility and celebration —not like the celebrations accorded World Earth Day and other events.
Habitat loss, poaching, pollution, among many others, are the reasons that many species are endangered and have gone extinct, thanks to human greed.
Some of the wildlife are predators and prey but the biggest destroyer of wildlife is humanity.
Recent years have shown uncontrolled, but allowed (by virtue of friendship), extraction by Chinese vessels of fishery products and other wildlife species in Philippine waters. Many of them are endemic.
The wanton neglect and least attention given to wildlife is because men are not aware of what wildlife extinction would do to them until it is too late.
As Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the “complexities in life have pushed environmental protection in the back of our minds, the effects are not necessarily felt now but would be devastating in the future.”
Cimatu warned that “our forests are fragile resources and that to maintain its integrity, we have to take a step forward by collaborating with enforcement agencies and adapting models in managing our ecosystems. We need to establish efficient investigation and prosecution of wildlife cases with a renewed vigor and determination that we will see our goals come into fruition.”
Just now, we are beginning to feel the effects of wildlife decimation. The life cycle has been altered considerably to the point that sooner than later, more epidemics and catastrophes will occur because of abuse and wanton misuse of our resources, particularly the wildlife.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who addressed the World Wildlife Day celebration last March 3 virtually, reminded everyone that we share this planet with our precious wildlife. We lose these resources due to the wanton destruction of their forest habitats and the rising demand for illegally traded wildlife. He emphatically expressed that it is about creating a future that takes every living creature into account.”
Senator Cynthia Villar, whose family’s real estate business had many contributions to the conversion of lands and the subsequent loss of biodiversity, also joined the celebration online underscoring the “importance of taking action on the protection of our biological diversity because any damage or loss will cost too much for a country such as ours. There is so much at stake and we become vulnerable to the adverse side effects if we do not commit to taking care of our environment.” She butted for even stronger enforcement of environmental protection laws.
5 ENDANGERED SPECIES
Sun Star News compiled a list of 5 endangered species in the Philippines. These are: the tamaraw; the Philippine crocodile; Philippine Mouse Deer; tarsier and the Philippine forest turtle.
The tamaraw is a dwarf buffalo that lives in only one place in the world—Mindoro Island, Philippines. It is classified as critically endangered. They have shiny black hair, backward-facing horns, and stand at no taller than about 4 feet at the shoulders. Despite being tiny, they are known for having quite a temper and will ready their horns against any strangers. More than 10,000 Tamaraw once lived across the island of Mindoro, but hunting, habitat degradation and disease over the years have sent the population spiraling downward, with only about 480 left today.
The Philippine crocodile is said to have a diet of mostly fish, small mammals, birds and snails. They help farmers in controlling those pests on the rice fields. Compared to other crocodiles, the Philippine crocodile is an average of 5 feet long. The Philippine crocodile is a critically endangered species and considered to be the most threatened crocodile species in the world. This endemic freshwater crocodile, once thought to be extinct in Luzon, was recently rediscovered in the Northern Sierra Madre, Northeast Luzon.
The Philippine mouse deer is critically endangered. Also known as Pilandok or Balabac chevrotain, the Philippine mouse deer is a unique creature only found in Palawan. They are small in stature and resemble exactly what their name describes: a mix of a mouse and a deer. It does not belong to the deer family. It is nocturnal and eats mostly plants, leaves, fruits and sometimes insects. The species is in continuing decline due to poaching for food and affected by habitat loss, as its forest home is converted to oil palm plantations.
The tarsiers are tiny leaping primates found mostly in Bohol. A definite tourist attraction for the island, they are fascinating creatures with big eyes, tiny bodies, and long rat-like tails. Tarsiers are the only known carnivorous primates and prey on insects, lizards, and sometimes even snakes. They usually cling upright to trees and branches and can live in monogamous pairs. Tarsiers are easily stressed and become self-destructive when they are held in captivity or even just touched. This species is not only critically endangered but its population is threatened. As of 2017, the International Primate Protection League estimated only 5,000 and 10,000 Philippine tarsiers left in the wild and the number is plummeting.
The Philippine Turtle is found in Palawan and is among the most critically endangered turtle species in the world. For a while, the Philippine Forest Turtle was believed to have been extinct, but a few specimens were found again somewhere in Northern Palawan. This brought the species into existence again in 2004. Unfortunately, this rediscovery brought about a negative effect as it made poachers get into a frenzy of capturing the turtles to sell as pets, make them into traditional medicine, and even food. Numerous environmental bodies have placed the population of this species at 10,000 individuals scattered in the identified Palawan municipalities as of 2018.
If we are to preserve and sustain our wildlife we must stop destroying their habitat, poaching, polluting and consuming them. Otherwise let us be prepared for worsening climate change, the surge in epidemics and lethal diseases in the years to come. We have a choice of short-term gain or sustainability of humanity and the planet.
By Rose de la Cruz