Reintroduction of the critically endangered Philippine crocodiles
By: Errol A. Gatumbato
Fifty captive-bred Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) species, commonly known as Buwaya, were sent back to their natural home in the beautiful Dicatian Lake in Barangay Dicatian, Divilacan, Isabela recently. No less than Mayor Venturito Bulan of Divilacan, Barangay Captain Felino Libunao of Dicatian, Director Glenn Rebong of the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, Josie De Leon of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, Merlijn van Weerd of the Mabuwaya Foundation and invited guests, other local government officials, and community members led in freeing the Buwayas, which are actually not as dangerous as commonly perceived unless provoke.The Philippine crocodile is probably the most severely threatened crocodile species in the world and endemic only to the Philippines. The IUCN-World Conservation Union and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have classified the Philippine crocodile as a critically endangered species because it has a very limited population in the wild. The total population of the Philippine crocodile surviving in the wild is estimated only at 100 mature individuals, according to Mabuwaya Foundation, which has been working with local communities and government to protect the remaining Philippine crocodiles in Isabela. The local governments of Barangay Dicatian and Divilacan municipality have agreed to support the reintroduction of Philippine crocodiles. Dicatian Lake is situated in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, the largest protected area in the country.
The Dicatian Lake used to have Philippine crocodiles but these were too small in number to form a thriving population, the Mabuwaya Foundation claimed. No people live along the lake, which is surrounded by forest. Nature loving tourists are welcome to visit the lake and see wild Philippine crocodiles and other endemic wildlife up close. An observation tower and a campsite have been established next to the lake. The ecotourism project is expected to provide benefits to the local community living near the lake and to the municipality of Divilacan, the Mabuwaya Foundation said.
The released crocodiles were bred in the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center of the DENR. Ten crocodiles have been fitted with radio transmitters to monitor their movements and adaptation, and gather more scientific information as a basis for future crocodile reintroduction elsewhere. This reintroduction of 50 Philippine crocodiles in Dicatian Lake is a major step towards a recovery of the wild population and the future survival of this species, the Mabuwaya Foundation said. This is the first reintroduction of the captive-bred Philippine crocodiles back into the wild. The reintroduction of such a large number of individuals of a critically endangered species itself is a rarity in the world, the Mabuwaya Foundation concluded.
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