Negros, a conservation hotspot of the world
BY: ERROL ABADA GATUMBATO
The Wildlife Month Celebration in Negros Occidental last November once again underscored the biodiversity importance of the province, and Negros Island in general, particularly in terms of the number of threatened endemic species and degree of threats. When we talk about endemic species we mean a kind of plant or animal with population that is only restricted in a particular area and Negros accounts several of these life forms. A particular species is declared as threatened when its population in the wild is getting limited and may soon be extinct. The IUCN – World Conservation Union is a recognized international authority that assign a particular level of threat for every declared threatened species, although the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has likewise come out with an administrative order providing the list of threatened flora and fauna in the Philippines.
The endemicity of species found in Negros is clearly reflected in the common names of a good number of species, such as the Negros fruit dove, Negros stripped babbler, Negros forest frog, Negros bleeding heart pigeon, and Negros bare-backed fruit bat, among others. However, in a recent development the Negros bleeding heart pigeon has been renamed as the Visayan bleeding heart pigeon because it is also known to occur in Panay. Numerous other endemic species are shared by major islands comprising the West Visayas Bio-geographic Zone – Negros, Panay, Cebu and Masbate, such as the Visayan or Philippines spotted deer, Visayan warty pig, Visayan writhed hornbill and Visayan leopard card, to name a few.
One of the most important species found only in Mount Kanla-on Natural Park is the Negros fruit dove, which to date remains mysterious because it has never been recorded following its discovery in 1953. Although there are notions that the species might be an invalid one, the global science community continues to affirm the validity of Negros fruit dove as a distinct threatened species of the world.
It is quite unfortunate that many of the endemic species are already at the brink of extinction in the wild primarily due to habitat destruction and overexploitation. Most of these threatened species are forest dependent and it is not new to many of us that Negros has lost most of its natural forest. This reality is in fact the rationale beyond the commemoration of Wildlife Month so that the general public will be informed on the biodiversity relevance of Negros and the need to secure both species and habitat from further deterioration. Initial studies show the remaining forests in Negros still harbor most, if now all, of the threatened endemic species of the island. It is therefore of paramount importance to protect these forests from destructive activities. A vast track of classified forestlands in Negros has already been converted into other land uses, which makes forest restoration a very challenging task. However, if we want our endemic species to survive, it is necessary that we shall engage in massive habitat restoration and not just a plain reforestation with the use of exotic species. Habitat restoration is the reestablishment of what the forest was before.
It is interesting to note that both the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are initiating the yearly commemoration of the Wildlife Month. In Negros Occidental, this year’s celebration was spearheaded by the provincial government through the Provincial Environment Management Office in partnership with the DENR, Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation, Inc., Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. and other institutions.
Note: All photos in this article were taken during the Wildlife Parade in Bacolod City. Photos courtesy by the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc.
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