Volume 13 Nos. 1 & 2
The importance of forest fragments for birds and local communities in Northeast Luzon, Philippines
The Philippine Islands used to be covered mainly with forest until recent times. Within the evolutionary history, the vast majority of flora and fauna species now occurring in the Philippines, colonized or evolved in forest habitats and not in cleared areas. Because of its specific island biogeogrpahical history, the Philippines has a very high number of endemic species. During the last 100 years, most of the original tropical forests in the Philippines have been removed for timber or cleared for crop cultivation. The forest fragments that still remain, usually in areas not suitable for cultivation or timber extraction, harbor remnants of the biodiversity originally found in extensive lowland forest.
The species richness of forest fragments is expected to be correlated to fragment size and the distance of the fragments to remaining forest. Local communities often depend on these fragments for their supply of a variety of forest products. We studies forest fragments in the Cagayan Valley of Northeast (NE) Luzon. One series of studies was aimed to describe the vegetation of forest patches. We found that many patches retain some of the tree species usually found in primary forest. Gallery forests along creeks have higher tree to shrub ratios than woody patches surrounded by grassland. Another series of studies was aimed to described the utilization of forest products by local communities. We found that a variety of "free access" products were derived from forest patches, the most important being fuelwood. Rural and even urban communities in NE Luzon still depend, on a large extent, on the use of fuelwood and the forest patches play a crucial role in providing that. Last, a study was conducted on avian species richness in forest patches in relation to patch size and distance to contiguous remnant forest, of which large stretch is present in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Species richness and the proportion of endemic species of all species were found to be related to patch size but not so much to distance to remnant forest. Two forest plots, one degraded and the other slightly disturbed, which were surveyed in remnant forest in the Sierra Madre under similar conditions were compared. Avian species richness was higher in the degraded forest plot but the absolute and relative numbers of endemic species were higher in the slightly disturbed plot. Therefore, we conclude that forest structure is an important factor which determines the suitability of forest habitat for several endemic bird species. The dual role of forest fragments as a habitat for Philippine bird species and as a resource of multiple products and services to local communities offers possibilities for community-based conservation activities, though specialized endemic bird species will probably not survive if larger well-protected forest areas disappear.
A new future for the Philippine crocodile, Crocodylus mindorensis
The Philippine crocodile, Crocodylus mindorensis, is considered to be the most severely threatened crocodile species in the world and is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. Previously widely distributed throughout the Philippine archipelago, C. mindorensis is now thought to be restricted to Mindanao, Negros and Luzon. A widely used population estimate of 100 non-hatchling individuals underlines the critical status of the species, although both distribution and population size estimations were not based on sound field data. A previously unknown population was discovered in the foothills of the Northern Sierra Madre in 1999, sparkling hope that C. mindorensis might occur in other, similarly unsurveyed localities. However, in most known localities, crocodiles have become extinct during the last 30 years. Killing of crocodiles seems to be the major cause of the decreasing number of this species. In Northeast Luzon, a community-based conservation approach was adopted with the aim of reaching sustainable co-habitation of crocodiles and local people. This is currently the only in-situ project for the species. The lessons learned from this project could be beneficial to a larger effort to conserve the Philippine crocodile in the wild.
Preliminary report on the mammals of Balbalasang, Kalinga Province, Luzon
An inventory of the mammals of Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park (BBNP) in Kalinga Province, Luzon conducted in 2000, 2001, and 2003 documented the presence of 31 species, including 12 species of bats, one insectivore, two non-native pest rodents, 12 native rodents, and four large mammals. The two species of non-native rodent pests were found only in agricultural habitats and in town. Sampling was conducted at six locations from 925 m to 2,150 m, in habitats ranging from agricultural areas, pine forest, and lower montane forest to lower mossy forest. We found that bat species richness decreased slightly with increasing elevation, but species richness of native small mammals (shrews plus rodents) increased. Ten species of non-flying mammals were recorded at 1,950 m and 2,150 m, representing the highest species richness documented at a single location in the Philippines. Many of the small mammals represented species and genera that are endemic to the Central Cordillera of Luzon. Though some remained poorly known, it is likely that all of the species in the area were represented by large and stable populations, due to the highly successful traditional forest and wildlife management practices of the local Banao community. Even large mammals such as deer and wildpigs were common due to careful local management. Future conservation efforts should reinforce this successful, traditional management.
Preliminary report on the amphibians and reptiles of Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, Luzon Island, Philippines
We provide information on the amphibians and reptiles of Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park (BBNP) based on field surveys we conducted on several localities in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003. We recorded a total of 51 species of amphibians and reptiles from the area. Baseline data on species richness, habitat and altitudinal distribution, and natural history are presented. The nerpetofauna exhibited high levels of endemicity and included at least 13 species that are potentially new to science (nine frogs of the genus Platymantis, three scincoid lizards of the genus Sphenomorphus, and one snake). We suspected that additional species await discovery after more thorough inventories have been completed especially targeting the low elevation forests of these vast mountain ranges. part from these exciting new discoveries, another significant outcome of our survey work is the rediscovery of five "lost species" from the Cordillera Central mountain range including Platymantis cornuta, Rana igorota, and Sphenomorphus luzonensis, all of which have been considered previously as either rare of in the verge of extinction. Our data suggest that these species are fairly common within the national park. We provide accounts for these species and point out possible new areas of biological studies. The high species richness and endemism of the herpetofauna of BBNP is an indication of the overall excellent condition of its forests.
Preliminary report on the ferns and fern allies (pteridophytes) of Mt. Bali-it, Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, Kalinga, Northern Luzon, Philippines
A recent survey of the pteridoflora of Balbalsang-Balbalan National Park (BBNP), (970-2,217m asl) on 16 Feb. to 3 Mar. 2003 resulted in the documentation of 167 species in 67 genera and 30 families. Of these, sixteen species and two varieties are endemic to the Philippines and four are restricted to northern Luzon only.
Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park (BBNP) is home to a third of the taxa restricted only to Luzon's Central Cordillera and has 15% of the country's pteridoflora. Our collection of fertile specimens of Cyrtomium confirmed the range extension of this genus to the Philippines. We rediscovered Dennstaedtia macregori, a Luzon endemic only known from the type of Monachosorum which was not previously reported in the Philippines. We found Aglaomorpha cornucopia, an IUCN-declared rare species, to be a dominant understorey cover of the most species-rich, mossy upper montane forest where 60% of the Luzon endemics were also found to occur. The more disturbed lower and mid-montane forests interspersed with pine forests have the lest number of species documented whereas Barangay Balbalasang and vicinity provide a diverse microhabitats for the more pioneering and widespread species. The Banao people of BBNP has managed their forest resources very well in this part of Central Cordillera having one of the largest, most pristine contiguous in the country.
A survey of the bats of Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape, Bohol Island, Philippines, and local attitudes towards them
Bats are among the endangered faunal wealth of the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape (RSPL) on Bohol. The main goal of this study was to obtain more data about the population status and basic ecology of the frugivorous bats of the RSPL, including the attitude of locals towards these animals. Mist netting at low and subcanopy level at 22 sites in 40 net nights caught 263 individuals. Netting and roost observations revealed nine species of frugivorous bats (Pteropodidae) and two species of insectivorous bats (Rhinolophidae). Of these, four species are endemic to the Philippines and three are included in the IUCN red list. All the species of Pteropodidae known to occur on Bohol prior to this research were recorded in this study. The species Pteropus hypomelanus (Common island flying fox) was recorded for the first time on Bohol. To investigate local attitude and knowledge, questionnaires were distributed in 14 of the 29 barangays (villages) surrounding the park. Results from the 257 completed questionnaires indicated that more than half of the respondents believe that the bat population is decreasing. In most of the surveyed barangays, the respondents associated bats with witches or devils. Over a quarter of the respondents said they sometimes eat flying foxes, while more than half would eat them if there was the opportunity. More than half of the respondents believed that bat hunting occurs occasionally in their barangay. The use of air guns is the most common method used to hunt bats. Other hunting techniques include the use of slingshot and trapping.
Recent information on the trade of Indonesian parrots in the Philippines
Despite the Indonesian government moratorium on the capture and trade of threatened cockatoos and lories in 1999, these birds continue to be heavily traded. In a brief investigation in 2001, we found that at least eight species of cockatoos and lories end up in southern Mindanao. The birds are usually transported under inhumane conditions. From the forest to the pet shop, 50% of the captured birds are reported to die along the way.
Frequency of the trade and volume traded have reportedly declines in the last 5-10 years, perhaps owing partly to the decline of the wild population and the stricter implementation of laws both in Indonesia and in the Philippines. However, monitoring remains sporadic to the continuing detriment of the wild population. Taking off from this study, Haribon Foundation is launching a campaign against illegal wildlife trade that includes awareness raising and creation of a monitoring scheme and an inter-agency task force for stricter implementation of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and other relevant wildlife laws.