The lion’s statue: An eyesore to the scenic view of Northern Negros Natural Park?
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The prominent statue of a lion in the scenic upland municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto in Negros Occidental province is now
getting the attention of visitors and passersby in the area. It is becoming a popular landmark where visitors drop to pose for souvenir photos. Many photographs taken in the statue are posted in social media, particularly the Facebook. Reportedly, the structure is within the 500-square meter-park and community center constructed by the Bacolod City Host Lions Club, in partnership with the Kaohsiung Port Lions Club in Taiwan and the Ichon Lions Club in South Korea. The 10-foot statue of a lion symbolizes the logo of the Lions Club International. While the intention of the three Lions Clubs is very noble in providing a community center, which is intended for medical missions, livelihood trainings, club retreats, and other projects for the residents of Don Salvador Benedicto, I can’t help but to ask why erect such a huge and high up figure of an exotic species in an environment where nature is on its best? There is no question that the Lions Club is entitled to be recognized for its good intention, through placing of its official logo at the site, but it should have been done with utmost sensitivity to the natural features of Don Salvador Benedicto, being part of the Northern Negros Natural Park.
Some people may find the statue very interesting, but for me it is inappropriate to the otherwise beautiful and picturesque landscape of the area, especially so that its backdrop is the equally scenic NNNP, where numerous endemic species of the Philippines and Negros, in particular, are also found. I am not against lions because they are fascinating animals, threatened in their habitats, and need protection too, but it is to my opinion that their host countries will be responsible in promoting them, in the same way that we shall patronize our very own species. When I posted online the photos of this statue, they draw several reactions some of which are hilarious. Lawyer Eli Gatanela of Bacolod City, upon noticing the photos, he commented, “The statue does not blend too well with the scenery. It is a kind of mismatch to the wonderful view of the verdant hills”. US-based Negrosanon and former tourism officer of the Department of Tourism in Negros Occidental also said, “This statue of a lion has absolutely nothing to do with neither environment nor conservation. It is a promotion of sort, whether it is becoming an eyesore, and destroys the background sceneries”. Gatia further opined that if the purpose of that structure is to capture more tourists to Don Salvador Benedicto, he thinks it is a bit way off because DSB will sell itself even without it. Conservationist Josef Sagemuller of Bacolod City even made a joke out of it by describing the statue as the newly discovered and highly endangered “Lion-Bulldog” because its appearance, according to him, seems to look like a combination of a lion and a bulldog. Journalist and mass communication professor Alen del Carmen commented, “The park will be a nicer one minus the growling animal”.
The Northern Negros Natural Park is host to numerous endemic species of the Philippines. Some species recorded in the area are in
fact endemic only in Negros Island and in the West Visayas Bio-Geographic Zone. Endemic species, as defined in the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act or Republic Act 9147, are species or sub-species that naturally occur and found only within the specific areas in the Philippines. It is therefore comical to see a prominent statue of an exotic species in NNNP. Exotic species are those species or sub-species that do not naturally occur in the country, like Lions. The faunal study of wildlife biologist Sol Pedregosa Hospodarsky, in 2009, attested to the biodiversity importance of NNNP, which is also included as one of the 128 Key Biodiversity Areas of the Philippines, as declared by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, along with several international and other local institutions. Hospodarsky’s findings confirmed and validated earlier studies of the NNNP’s high endemic values, in spite that a large part of the protected area is already converted into other purposes, particularly permanent agriculture and settlement.
The survey, which was primarily supported by the Rufford Small Grants, Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, and other conservation institutions, has recorded a total of 90 bird species, 37 of which have been noted as endemic, with 57 endemic sub-species. Six threatened species were listed in the study sites, according to Hospodarsky, three of these are categorized as endangered, namely, the Visayan tarictic hornbill, White-throated jungle flycatcher, and the Flame-templed babbler. Two other bird species, the Visayan flowerpecker and the White-winged cuckoo-shrike, classified as vulnerable under the threatened species of the IUCN-World Conservation Union, are further recorded in NNNP, including the near-threatened Philippine needletail. NNNP has a total of 144 bird species recorded to date, while Negros Island has about 247 recorded bird species. The study results show that 58.3% of birds listed in Negros Island is found in NNNP. The same study of Hospodarsky claimed that there were eight bat species netted in NNNP, and five of these species are endemic. These species include the Philippine pygmy fruit bat, Harpy fruit bat, Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat, Musky fruit bat, and Philippine forest roundleaf bat. A thick-thumbed pipistrelle (Glischropus tylopus), which was captured during the survey, is a new record for Negros Island. The study findings bring a total of 55 mammals listed in the island of Negros, and 30 of these recorded species are found in NNNP, Hospodarsky added. It is interesting to note that almost 33% of the 55 mammal species found in Negros are endemic, while NNNP has 37% endemicity among the 30 mammalian species recorded in the protected area.
According to Hospodarsky, there are 11 endemic amphibian species listed in Negros, of which seven are Philippine endemic, three are Negros-Panay endemic, and one Negros endemic. Amazingly, out of these 11 endemic amphibian species, eight are recorded in NNNP. Similarly, 18 species of reptiles were recorded in NNNP, out of the 38 endemic reptile species listed for Negros Island. The endemicity of reptiles in Negros Island is quite biologically interesting because 33 are Philippine endemic, two are Negros-Panay endemic and three others are endemic only in Negros. With the numerous endemic species found in NNNP, we need not to construct statues of exotic species in prominent areas. What’s more important, however, is the protection of NNNP from destructive activities because statues of our endemic species are unnecessary if only they are secured in their habitats and we can see them freely in the wild.
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