Mindanao Daily Mirror
September 27, 2010
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) -- Ignoring their
government’s advisory against visiting the Philippines,
Hong Kong birdwatchers are in Davao for the 1st Asian Bird
Fair, claiming they are on a mission for the environment.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte with Hong
Birdwatching Society members (L-R) John Allcock,
Bond Shum and Samson So
“Bird watching is no pure enjoyment,”
said Samson So, 27, a member of the Hong Kong Bird Watching
Society. “It is also a mission to protect and conserve
environment.” Shum Ting Wing, who calls himself “Bond,”
said more people in Hong Kong are increasingly interested
in protecting the environment but natural habitats are still
being threatened every time new highways are built.
They said some friends discouraged them from
coming to the Philippines after the hostage-taking tragedy
that took the lives of eight Hong Kong tourists in Manila
in August but they said they were determined to come for their
So said he chose to ignore the “advice
of one person,” referring to the Hong Kong embassy,
against the “greater interest” of protecting the
Shum and So were two of three Hong Kong birdwatchers
who joined Asia’s first Bird Fair and 6th Philippine
Bird Festival, which opened at the Waterfront Hotel on Friday,
September 24 and will end on Sunday with a tour to bird watching
sites in Eden and Malagos.
At least 18 foreign birdwatchers and conservationists
from Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Taiwan and the United Kingdom,
joined close to 300 participants in the festival organized
by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.
“Birds are good indicators of the health
of the environment,” said So, “Through bird watching,
we can promote the importance of conservation. Where we can
see a large number of birds means that the ecosystem is still
He said the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society
lobbied in 2004 against the conversion of Hong Kong’s
Long Valley marshland into a railway station and won. Shum
said the government was forced to build the railway underground
to appease the environment group’s lobby against the
destruction of the 25-hectare marshland, which is the habitat
of over 200 species of birds.
From Hongkong and Taiwan to Burma, Thailand
and Nepal, bird watchers shared a common concern over the
destruction of bird habitats because of the entry of plantations,
illegal logging, and even large-scale environment disasters
such as climate change.
Tony Htin Hla and daughter Thiri dressed
in traditional garb for the Turnover
Dinner at the Grand Men Seng Hotel
Htin Hla of the Biodiversity and Nature conservation
Association, also said his group had lobbied for the declaration
of an area in Tenintharyi Division in Burma as a sanctuary
for the bird Gurney’s Pitta, an endangered species of
bird in Thailand. Hla said there were only 12 pairs of Gurney’s
Pitta left in Thailand but in 2003, the birds were discovered
in Tenintharyi Division in Burma. When his group lobbied for
the declaration of the site into a natural sanctuary to protect
the birds, the government turned down the proposal, saying
the area has already been reserved for an oil palm plantation.
Hla said he is hopeful that the upcoming
elections in Burma in November will bring about change that
will augur well for their conservation works.
In Nepal, climate change has brought about
changes in the behavior of birds, said Hum Gurung, chief executive
officer of the Bird Conservation Nepal. He said snow coming
from the mountains has been melting rapidly, swelling the
rivers and destroying the habitats of river birds. Changes
in weather pattern are also changing the behavior of birds.
Before they used to wait for the Sarus crane to come down
the mountain to signal the change of the season and the time
for the Nepalese village people to plant rice but now the
bird often gets delayed and sometimes does not show up at
all. “Because of climate change, birds are shifting
habitats,” he said.
Among the endemic species of birds displayed
by Filipino wildlife photographers in an exhibit here were
the cattle egret sighted in San Juan, Batangas, the Mindanao
Tarictic Hornbill photographed by Kaakbay’s Alain Pascua
in Bislig, Surigao del Sur and the Philippine Frogmouth, photographed
by Rey Sta Ana also in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.
So and Shum said they look forward to seeing
the birds in Malagos. “We’re interested to see
where the birds live but we also want to find out what they
need,” said So.Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews