By Camille Diola (philstar.com)
Updated November 10, 2014 - 12:45pm
|Three unidentified men killed a Black Bittern at the UP Diliman lagoon area
MANILA, Philippines — It was not the usual afternoon for bird watching enthusiasts and University of the Philippines (UP) alumni Lu-Ann Bajarias and her husband, Amado, who take photos of wildlife in the Diliman campus.
On Sunday, they witnessed three men killing an "elusive" black bittern in what seemed to be a habitual act of hunting for food in the campus, known to be one of the few remaining spots in Metro Manila where wildlife continues to thrive.
Lu-Ann, who along with her husband is a founding member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, said the men had been searching the UP Lagoon area at the heart of the campus for crabs, fish and birds.
"We saw one of the men violently hit something in the water. The sound traveled enough for us to go running, expecting the worst. They held up in pride the elusive black bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) of UP Diliman. Lifeless. Plucked like it was theirs for the taking," she said in a Facebook post.
Amado said the bittern was uncommon to be seen in the Philippines and "extremely difficult species to find" in campus.
"It should be a source of pride for UP Diliman that there's a black bittern in its grounds!" he said in a separate post.
Diversity of wildlife a Diliman pride
The 493-hectare flagship campus of the UP system, along with the Ateneo de Manila University campus, harbors diverse terrestrial vertebrate species of wildlife.
A study by the UP Institute of Biology recorded at least six species of amphibians, 13 species of reptiles, 47 species of birds and 10 species of mammals.
A fraction of the 76 species found in campus are endemic.
"The species found are not as exceptional as those found in undisturbed ecosystems. However, considering the transformation and degradation that has taken place in the study areas," researchers Perry Ong, Marisol Pedregosa and Michael de Guia wrote in a 1999 study.
"Finding this diverse assemblage of wildlife is already something that the Diliman community as a whole can be proud of," they added.
The study's inventory did not include the black bittern the Bajarias couple saw being killed.
'No hunting' policy pushed
In her post, Lu-Ann appealed for UP authorities to put an end to hunting practices in campus, among the capital city's dwindling green spaces and acknowledged avian sanctuaries.
"That easy access [of the campus for the public\ is a double edged sword... My hope is UP can be clearer on what is not allowed on campus grounds. So it is also easier for the guards to enforce," Lu-Ann said in an exchange with Philstar.com
She suspects that the black bittern was not the only rare species recently slain in university grounds, as adults and kids have been collecting fish, crabs and mollusks there.
"Clearly, the men did not feel they were breaking any law ... As the men waded into the lagoon, we feared for the white-breasted waterhen and its chicks (which we haven't seen in a while). Our guess is that they've been taken much earlier. I am not ashamed to say that I cried in the car," she added.