PHILIPPINE CROCODILE CONSERVATION IN ISABELA PROVINCE

This is the presentation given by Marites Balbas of Mabuwaya during the 8th Philippine Bird Festival on 7 December 2012. She discusses the significance of the Northern Sierra Madre natural park not only for  conservation of the Philippine Crocodile, the most severely threatened and rarest crocodile in the world, but also for biodiversity of trees, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, butterflies, dragonflies, and other species.

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Biodiversity Conservation in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park
by Marites Gatan Balbas
Photos by Merlijn van Weerd

Slide01

Good Morning to everyone. I am Tess Balbas of the Mabuwaya Foundation and today I am going to present to you a our Biodiversity Conservation Work in The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. But my presentation will focus on Philippine crocodile conservation, but dont worry as i will showing to you different birds that are found the NSMNP.

Slide02

We work in northern Luzon in the Sierra Madre Mountains and Cagayan Valley

Slide03

The Sierra Madre Mountain Range has the largest remaining stretch of forest in the Philippines. On this map you see the current forest cover with old growth forest shown as dark green and secondary forest as light green. The black lines show the boundary of the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park.

Slide04

The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, or NSMNP, is one of the largest protected areas of our country. It protects the entire Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Isabela Province. It was established in 1999 and has an area of almost 360,000 ha. And it is globally important as it protects large numbers of species that can not be found anywhere else in the World.

Slide05

On the eastern side we find extensive areas of undisturbed forest on the mountains along the Pacific Ocean.

Slide06

While on the western side most lowland forest has been logged and converted into agricultural lands. Here we only find old growth forest at higher elevations.

Slide07

The indigenous people of this area are the Agta, who still depend on hunting and fishing for their livelihood.

Slide08

The NSMNP still harbours many species that have become rare or extinct elsewhere.

Slide09

This is what we know of the species diversity in the NSMNP now. Some studies are ongoing such as an inventory of the Dragonflies, and of the Amphibians and Reptiles, and the number of species will definately rise further. Mabuwaya is involved in all of these studies. As you can see, 294 bird species have been found in the NSMNP. That is almost 50 % of all bird species of the Philippines.

Slide10

73 species that live in the NSMNP are globally threatened. Among them the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, Isabela Oriole and the Philippine crocodile.

Slide11

The Isabela Oriole is still found in the municipality of San Mariano. Joni Acay is now conducting a study of Isabela Orioles which she will present here today as well.

Slide12

Some species found in the Sierra Madre are endemic to Luzon and satellite islands such as the Luzon Racquet-tail Parrot and the Cream-bellied Fruit-dove.

Slide13

The Luzon Bleeding-heart Pigeon is endemic to Greater Luzon.

Slide14

The Furtive Flycatcher and the Golden-crowned Babbler are small insect-eating birds that live deep in the forest. They are endemic to Luzon. The Philippine Dwarf-kingfisher is a forest species that does not eat fish but insects and small reptiles. Its endemic to the Philippines. The Philippine Eagle-Owl is our biggest Owl.

Slide15

The NSMNP also has more than 40 species of bats, both insect-eating (left) and fruit bats (right).

Slide16

And the largest roost site of flying foxes in the Philippines.

Slide17

25 species of amphibians have been found to date in the NSMNP.

Slide18

And 65 species of reptiles

Slide19

Including the newly described fruit-eating monitor lizard: the Bitatawa. (One of the type specimens of the Bitatawa can be found on the top floor of the National Museum in the biodiversity exposition).

Slide20

The Saltwater crocodile.

Slide21

And the Philippine crocodile.

Slide22

There are two species of crocodiles in the Philippines. The Saltwater crocodile crocodylys porosus and the Philippine crocodile crocodylus mindorensis. The saltwater crocodile is widespread from India to Australia and is not globally threatened while the Philippine crocodile is endemic to the Philippines and is critically endangered.

Slide23

The Philippine crocodile is the most severely threatened crocodile in the world.

Slide24

The Philippine crocodile used to be widespread in the Philippines as you can see in the map from the island of Dalupiri, Luzon, the Visayas and in Mindanao.

Slide25

But now, Philippine crocodiles are only known from five localities, in Dalupiri Island, Abra, Divilacan, San Mariano and Liguwasan Marsh.

Slide26

Hunting, habitat loss and destructive fishing methods are the main reasons for the decline of its population.

Slide27

There is a captive breeding program for the Philippine Crocodile on Palawan, but these crocs are kept in captivity.

Slide28

While in the wild Philippine crocodiles continue to be captured and killed. Officially crocodiles are protected by the Wildlife Act but law enforcement is weak.

Slide29

Mabuwaya works in 3 municipalities in Isabela Province.. In Maconacon, Divilacan and San Mariano. Our office is located in Cabagan at the campus of Isabela State University.

Slide30

Philippine Crocodile survives in an extensively cultivated upland area of San Mariano. This area is the place where we first found the Philippine Crocodile.

Slide31

This is another habitat of the Philippine Crocodile, Disulap River.

Slide32

And Dunoy Lake which is found within the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. Here you can also find the Isabela Oriole and the newly described Bitatawa.

Slide33

This is Dinang Creek.

Slide34

Where you can find people washing their clothes and carabaos bathing during the day

Slide35

but during the night, in the same spot you will see an adult Philippine Crocodile.

Slide36

The Indigenous people here, the Agta and the Kalinga respect the crocodile because of their traditional beliefs.

Slide37

But all beliefs are vanising and so the crocodiles. This is the same crocodile that you saw basking on the rock… A picture of this individual was even on an official postal stamp of the Philippines. But it was killed in 2010 by an unknown person.

Slide38

Electrofishing is sometimes still observed and this threatens the crocodiles and their food supply.

Slide39

And unsustainable farming still continues and threatens ecosystem services, the livelihood of upland farmers and biodiversity.

Slide40

Larger crocodiles live in fast-flowing rivers.

Slide41

And suitable habitat for small crocodiles is rare. Most Mashes have been converted into ricefields.

Slide42

The Mabuwaya Foundation is working very closely with the DENR, LGU’s Leiden University and Isabela State University

Slide43

to answer the question “how can we conserve the rarest crocodile on the planet?”

Slide44

Mabuwaya uses a community-based conservation approach aimed at local acceptance and participation in crocodile conservation.

Slide45

There is a little public support for Philippine crocodile conservation.

Slide46

Because of things like this….

Slide47

Now, can crocodiles and people co-exist in the Philippines?

Slide48

We believe that Communication is the key. We produce information materials and posters.

Slide49

We use the Philippine crocodile as flagship species for sustainable wetland management.

Slide50

We also use active communication such as theatre shows during fiestas.

Slide51

Puppets shows in the schools.

Slide52

And a party with Krokey so that fear of crocodiles will be lessened if not removed.

Slide53

We conduct school lectures for elementary and high schools.

Slide54

And we organize school visits for college students to give them the chance to see crocodiles in the wild.

Slide55

We also use interactive communications such as workshops and community consultations so we can discuss issues about crocodile conservation.

Slide56

And we encourage local participation in land use planning.

Slide57

Using 3d Modelling, so they can clearly visualize areas for conservation.

Slide58

We train local people on environmental law enforcement.

Slide59

And teach them proper documentation when they will arrest violators.

Slide60

So they will be effective law enforcers.

Slide61

To strengthen the protection efforts more, the people declared fish and crocodile sanctuaries.

Slide62

And local ordinances were enacted.

Slide63

Aside from these, we also do crocodile nest protection.

Slide64

Up to the time that eggs are hatched.

Slide65

To increase survival of the hatchlings, we collect them and

Slide66

bring them to the rearing station where we take care of them up to 2 years.

Slide67

Soft release ponds are constructed.

Slide68

These ponds serve as soft relase areas for the head-started crocodiles

Slide69

where children and community members release their crocodiles.

Slide70

The community based-conservation approached is successful, the killing of crocodiles has dropped.

Slide71

And the population of crocodile is slowly increasing.

Slide72

Philippine crocodile conservation also benefits other species.

Slide73

Now people in San Mariano take pride in their crocodiles.

Slide74

And they also benefit from it. We provided a pump well for them.

Slide75

And now people claim that since wetland and wetland resources are better protected. They have more fish to catch and cleaner water.

Slide76

But there are also costs to communities that live near crocodiles such as livestock predation.

Slide77

Crocodile attacks happen, especially if you don’t follow the rules.

Slide78

Regulations on buffer zones are not strictly implemented. Such as this picture.

Slide79

And this one… what will happen to this pig if a crocodile is roaming in his habitat?

Slide80

So we are still doing all of these activities to lessen crocodile conflicts. These are reforestation of buffer zones, provision of pump wells so people don’t have to go to the river to take a bath or get water, building of livestock pens, and informing people of how to live together with crocodiles. We hope that in time we will achieve our goals of protecting crocodiles and lessening conflicts and that people and crocodiles can live happily together .

Slide81

And to anyone who would like to know more about the Philippine crocodile and our conservation work, buy this book and you are already giving your share for Philippine crocodile conservation.

Slide82

Thank you very much and Mabuhay Buwaya!

2 thoughts on “PHILIPPINE CROCODILE CONSERVATION IN ISABELA PROVINCE

  1. Pingback: January 2013 – Bird Festival Special Issue | e-BON

  2. Hello Folks. Great work you guys are doing. I wish I could be there to help. Would like to know more about the large croc that was killed in 2010. How was it killed and were the perpetrators apprehended? It looked like a salt water croc, and was too large to be a Mondoro croc. Is that correct? Please keep me posted. John

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