The 2012 Biodiversity Day
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
Last May 22, the whole world commemorated the International Biodiversity Day. In the Philippines, several institutions, led by the Protected Areas Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, initiated several activities to highlight the importance of biodiversity. However, the celebration of Biodiversity Day in the country was overshadowed by unfolding events in the impeachment proceeding of Chief Justice Renato Corona and the finale of the American Idol, where half-Filipina Jessica Sanchez was vying for the top slot, not to mention the sensation brought by the concert of Lady Gaga in Manila.
The theme of this year’s Biodiversity Day focused on the conservation of the ocean, because like other ecosystems, our seas are also facing numerous environmental issues, from pollution, destructive and over fishing, and the threatening of numerous species found therein, among others. It is quite unfortunate that while we were observing the Biodiversity Day last week, several news organizations came out with reports regarding the open selling of marine turtles’ meat in Cebu. Another report further claimed that about P5 million worth of assorted marine species, including the horned helmet shells and turtle carapace, were confiscated in a shipment, also in Cebu.
The annual observance of the Biodiversity Day is very much important, particularly in the Philippines, because of our diverse endemic flora and fauna that could not be found elsewhere in the world. Our country is known as one of the 18 mega diverse countries of the world since it is hosting about 70 to 80% of the world’s flora and fauna. It is also amazing to note that the Philippines harbors more diverse life forms than any country on a per hectare basis. The following statistics provided by the PAWB simply shows the significance of our country’s biodiversity:
- More than 52,177 described species in the Philippines, more than half are only found here, but 491 of these are already threatened;
- More than 1,130 terrestrial wildlife have been recorded, half of these are endemic and 128 are threatened;
- The Philippines is one of the most important centers of amphibians (101 species) and reptiles (258 species) in Southeast Asia, accounting to at least 68% endemic species;
- There are 576 species of birds in the entire country, of which 195 are endemic and 226 others with restricted range, making the Philippines the 4th leading country in the world in bird endemism;
- The Philippines has the greatest concentration of terrestrial mammalian diversity in the world, but it is also ranked 8th among the most threatened. There are 174 indigenous mammals are recorded in the Philippines, 111 of these species are endemic;
- The rate of discovering new species in the country is one of the highest in the world, with a total of 36 new species of herpetofauna discovered in the last 10 years.
Many of these species, however, are severely threatened and a number of them may soon be declared extinct in the wild if no proper and effective measures are implemented. Habitat destruction and over exploitation are main factors why several of our species have been declared as threatened species by both the IUCN-World Conservation and the DENR. Some wildlife species are being hunted for food, like the marine turtles, deer, wild pigs and some bird species, while several other species are used as pets, including snakes and crocodiles. The commemoration of Biodiversity Day is an attempt to remind us the need to protect and conserve our wildlife species from just becoming things of the past.
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