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Cebu City hosts 3rd Philippine Bird Festival, 21-22 September

Philippine birdwatchers bid to help save rare Cebu bird from extinction

Birdwatchers from all corners of the Republic and neighbouring countries will flock into Cebu on 21 September with a mission to spread the gospel of wildlife habitat conservation and thereby reinforce international efforts to save a rare island species from extinction.

 
Cebu Flowerpecker
The Cebu Flowerpecker, from a painting by William Oliver.
Found only in Cebu, this rare bird is in extreme danger
of being lost forever. William Oliver.

The bird under "death sentence" is the Cebu Flowerpecker, a tiny, blue-black and white bird with a distinctive red patch on its back. It is unique to the forests of Cebu. It exists nowhere else on the planet. If the last remaining small patches of its forest habitat are not preserved, it will vanish forever.

In fact, it was already thought to have disappeared entirely until it was chanced upon by a visiting amateur birdwatcher in 1992, in a tiny remnant of forest at Tabunan, in the Central Cebu National Park. It has also been seen since at Nug-As and at nearby Mt Lantoy, but is still so rare that no photographs are available. Several other kinds of birds unique to Cebu are thought to have already become extinct.

The bird's habitats are still being reduced by logging and encroachment. With every old tree that is felled, the shadow of death draws in closer on the Cebu Flowerpecker.

 

Global campaign

"We should not allow this to happen," declared Michael Lu, President of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). The Club is holding its Third Philippine Bird Festival in Cebu on 21 September at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, and the following day at the Olango Island Nature Sanctuary.

 

"Birdlife International, based in the United Kingdom, assesses the threat status of the world's birds for the United Nations. It has just warned that bird species around the world are disappearing at an unprecedented rate: 189 species are on the 'critically endangered' list on the brink of extinction: 9 of them are here in the Philippines. The Cebu Flowerpecker is one of them. Birdlife International has recently launched a global program aimed at saving all 189 species from extinction."

"The WBCP will do its utmost to increase awareness in Cebu about the plight of the Cebu Flowerpecker," Lu states. "And we're also determined to do the same for other species unique to Cebu, including the Black Shama, which is endangered, but not yet on the 'critical' list."

Black Shama
The Black Shama, another one of Cebu's endemic species,
faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild. 2007 Raul Puentespina.

Festival events

The threatened Cebu Flowerpecker appropriately appears as the Festival logo. The two-day event bannered "Just Watch, Don't Catch!" aims to raise conservation awareness through birdwatching and the responsible appreciation of nature.

Events on 21 September at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel will include lectures, photo exhibits, film shows, art activities and face-painting for kids. These will be followed by the 2nd Philippine Duck Forum, at which conservationists and academics will spotlight efforts to save this endangered endemic species.

At Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary on 22 September, delegates will witness the arrival of the first migrant shore birds from Northern Asia, some of which are themselves globally endangered, and hold joint activities with the island community.

Among the organizations participating in the festival are the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, WWF-Philippines, Center for Environmental Awareness and Education, Isla Biodiversity Conservation and Kaakbay CDI. The Wild Bird Society of Taipei, the Asian Raptor Research & Conservation Network and the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand are also attending.

The Festival is sponsored by Team-Energy Foundation, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, the Cebu City Mayor's Office, Sulpicio Lines, Pioneer Insurance and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines.

 

Note to Editors: The other Philippine bird species on the global critically endangered list are the Philippine Eagle, Mindoro Bleeding Heart, Negros Bleeding Heart, Sulu Bleeding Heart, Negros Fruit Dove, Philippine Cockatoo, Sulu Hornbill and the Isabela Oriole. Unless their habitats are saved and protected, they are likely to vanish forever within a few years.

For sponsorship inquiries, please contact Festival Chair Alice Villa-Real (Manila) at pathway93@yahoo.com or 0917-5397861 and Nilo Arribas, Jr (Cebu) at ph_photo_97@yahoo.com or 0906-5851881.

For school participation inquiries, please get in touch with Ms Evelyn Nacario of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation at ENacario@rafi.org.ph.