|‘Holocaust’ feared in Candaba
bird haven |
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 04:48:00 04/13/2010
The waters were drained at the height of El Nino to "rehabilitate" the pond
CANDABA, PAMPANGA—Warning of an “avian holocaust”
in an important wetland here, conservationists raised concern
for the safety of local and migratory birds and their habitat
after a pond owned by the family of Mayor Jerry Pelayo was
drained and the drought further dried it up.
“You don’t take off the water. That’s holocaust
for the water birds,” Arne Jensen, an ornithologist, said
in a telephone interview on Sunday.
The pond, located in Barangay San Pablo Vizal
here, belongs to a 72-hectare estate within the Candaba Swamp,
a 30,000-ha wetland that covers parts of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga
Two ponds in the estate host 120 species
of birds—68 of them from various parts of the world—that escape
winter, and breed and feed there from September to February.
Water level check
Pelayo on Monday corrected reports that the
pond, about a hectare in size, was entirely drained.
Water in the canal encircling the inner edges
of the pond has been maintained at three to five feet high,
a check by the Inquirer on Monday showed.
Pelayo said farmers build their canals this
way because lands are used to cultivate rice on dry months
and grow fish on months when the Candaba Swamp is flooded.
“We took out the bulk of the water because
we are rehabilitating the pond at this time when only a few
migratory birds are around. We’re planting rows of the bayakbak
(a woody shrub) as wind breakers. These will help the birds
get rest from the beatings of the wind,” he said.
But Jensen, who also heads the records committee
of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, urged more conservation
efforts because the pond has become a bird sanctuary.
Pelayo said his family had given priority
to conservation efforts since 2002. The municipal government
does not provide direct support although the local council
has declared it a sanctuary through a resolution in 2004.
Candaba instead used a P2-million grant from
the German government to put up an information center and
bamboo hides around the two ponds, he said.
Except for support in the annual Asian Waterbird
Census, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
has yet to assign an ornithologist or any other technical
staff to the area.
Signs of things unusual are seen on the site.
For instance, some birds like the grey heron,
black winged stilt, egret and tufted duck, have overstayed
when they usually leave in February, said Leny Manalo, the
The bean goose, found in Europe, was first
seen here in March.
Florante Mangulabnan said local farmers deal
with a drought that is considered worse than the one that
struck them 15 years ago.
On Monday, Mangulabnan and his farm workers
sucked water from a stream, transferring this to another stream
seven kilometers down to irrigate his 11-ha rice land.
Mangulabnan said he learned from his relatives
in Sitio Cordero and Caballado that they drew water from Pelayo’s
farm a few weeks before the harvest in February to rescue
their crops from the dry spell.
Pelayo denied this, saying the pond was drained
two weeks ago and not in February.
But amid concerns arising from the draining,
Manalo urged conservation groups to help the town government
manage the ecosystem to strike a balance between the needs
of farmers and the birds.