Captive-bred threatened species await reintroduction
Philippine spotted deer and other threatened species await reintroduction
By: Errol A. Gatumbato
The captive breeding initiative of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme, formerly administered by the Fauna and Flora International and now by the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, in partnership with the Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation, Silliman University and West Visayas State University has successfully produced several threatened species that are already at the brink of extinction in the wild. These species include the highly threatened Philippine spotted deer, Visayan warty pigs, Visayan tarictic hornbill and several others. The initiative is aimed at breeding threatened species with the end view of releasing them back to their original habitat.
Usually, captive breeding is an important conservation initiative in a situation when the population of a particular species in the wild is already suspected to be limited. Breeding areas are also utilized for awareness and education of threatened endemic species and biodiversity, in general. The reintroduction is not as simple as just releasing the animals to the wild. There are many factors to be considered, foremost of which is the availability of vacant habitats. Vacant habitat refers to a place where the species to be reintroduced once dwelled, but where none of its kind exists anymore. If a species is released in an area where its population still lives, it is called restocking.
It is recommended that animals bred in captivity be reintroduced into vacant habitat instead of restocking, to avoid possible contamination of whatever imperfection of species produced out of captive breeding to natural stocks. Another purpose of reintroduction is to repopulate species that have become extinct in a particular habitat. The other important consideration is the range of vacant habitat, a vital concern because certain wildlife species requires a much larger area to survive. If other land uses, particularly agriculture and human settlement for example, already fragment the vacant habitats, the likelihood of species to survive may be affected, too.
Other considerations associated with needs of a particular species, such as availability of food plants and water sources, have to be evaluated properly before the reintroduction. As such, site suitability assessments should be carried carefully to ensure that reintroduced species would eventually increase in numbers. Social acceptability is also an important element in reintroduction. How safe is the reintroduction site in terms of wildlife poaching, hunting, slash and burn farming, all forms of pollution and other destructive practices? Several species ready for introduction, such as the Philippine spotted deer and the Visayan warty pigs are heavily hunted because of their meat, and the question remains if communities surrounding the reintroduction site are ready to embrace the very purpose of wildlife reintroduction.
Negros is an ideal site for reintroduction because it is one of the islands of the Philippines, where a good number of endemic species are already threatened to extinction in the wild. The destruction of habitat and extensive wildlife hunting and poaching are primary reasons why many endemic species in Negros are already included in the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN-World Conservation Union and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Unfortunately, the restoration of habitats is also a difficult task because former forested areas are already converted into other land uses. Similarly, remaining habitats are not yet fully secured and are still under threats of destructive human activities.
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