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PHILIPPINE CROCODILE CONSERVATION IN ISABELA PROVINCE

This is the presentation given by Marites Balbas of Mabuwaya during the 8th Philippine Bird Festival on 7 December 2012. She discusses the significance of the Northern Sierra Madre natural park not only for  conservation of the Philippine Crocodile, the most severely threatened and rarest crocodile in the world, but also for biodiversity of trees, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, butterflies, dragonflies, and other species.

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Biodiversity Conservation in the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park
by Marites Gatan Balbas
Photos by Merlijn van Weerd

Slide01
Good Morning to everyone. I am Tess Balbas of the Mabuwaya Foundation and today I am going to present to you a our Biodiversity Conservation Work in The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. But my presentation will focus on Philippine crocodile conservation, but dont worry as i will showing to you different birds that are found the NSMNP.
Slide02
We work in northern Luzon in the Sierra Madre Mountains and Cagayan Valley
Slide03
The Sierra Madre Mountain Range has the largest remaining stretch of forest in the Philippines. On this map you see the current forest cover with old growth forest shown as dark green and secondary forest as light green. The black lines show the boundary of the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park.
Slide04
The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, or NSMNP, is one of the largest protected areas of our country. It protects the entire Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Isabela Province. It was established in 1999 and has an area of almost 360,000 ha. And it is globally important as it protects large numbers of species that can not be found anywhere else in the World.

Slide05
On the eastern side we find extensive areas of undisturbed forest on the mountains along the Pacific Ocean.
Slide06
While on the western side most lowland forest has been logged and converted into agricultural lands. Here we only find old growth forest at higher elevations.
Slide07
The indigenous people of this area are the Agta, who still depend on hunting and fishing for their livelihood.
Slide08
The NSMNP still harbours many species that have become rare or extinct elsewhere.
Slide09
This is what we know of the species diversity in the NSMNP now. Some studies are ongoing such as an inventory of the Dragonflies, and of the Amphibians and Reptiles, and the number of species will definately rise further. Mabuwaya is involved in all of these studies. As you can see, 294 bird species have been found in the NSMNP. That is almost 50 % of all bird species of the Philippines.
Slide10
73 species that live in the NSMNP are globally threatened. Among them the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, Isabela Oriole and the Philippine crocodile.
Slide11
The Isabela Oriole is still found in the municipality of San Mariano. Joni Acay is now conducting a study of Isabela Orioles which she will present here today as well.
Slide12
Some species found in the Sierra Madre are endemic to Luzon and satellite islands such as the Luzon Racquet-tail Parrot and the Cream-bellied Fruit-dove.
Slide13
The Luzon Bleeding-heart Pigeon is endemic to Greater Luzon.
Slide14
The Furtive Flycatcher and the Golden-crowned Babbler are small insect-eating birds that live deep in the forest. They are endemic to Luzon. The Philippine Dwarf-kingfisher is a forest species that does not eat fish but insects and small reptiles. Its endemic to the Philippines. The Philippine Eagle-Owl is our biggest Owl.
Slide15
The NSMNP also has more than 40 species of bats, both insect-eating (left) and fruit bats (right).
Slide16
And the largest roost site of flying foxes in the Philippines.
Slide17
25 species of amphibians have been found to date in the NSMNP.
Slide18
And 65 species of reptiles
Slide19
Including the newly described fruit-eating monitor lizard: the Bitatawa. (One of the type specimens of the Bitatawa can be found on the top floor of the National Museum in the biodiversity exposition).
Slide20
The Saltwater crocodile.
Slide21
And the Philippine crocodile.
Slide22
There are two species of crocodiles in the Philippines. The Saltwater crocodile crocodylys porosus and the Philippine crocodile crocodylus mindorensis. The saltwater crocodile is widespread from India to Australia and is not globally threatened while the Philippine crocodile is endemic to the Philippines and is critically endangered.
Slide23
The Philippine crocodile is the most severely threatened crocodile in the world.
Slide24
The Philippine crocodile used to be widespread in the Philippines as you can see in the map from the island of Dalupiri, Luzon, the Visayas and in Mindanao.
Slide25
But now, Philippine crocodiles are only known from five localities, in Dalupiri Island, Abra, Divilacan, San Mariano and Liguwasan Marsh.
Slide26
Hunting, habitat loss and destructive fishing methods are the main reasons for the decline of its population.
Slide27
There is a captive breeding program for the Philippine Crocodile on Palawan, but these crocs are kept in captivity.
Slide28
While in the wild Philippine crocodiles continue to be captured and killed. Officially crocodiles are protected by the Wildlife Act but law enforcement is weak.
Slide29
Mabuwaya works in 3 municipalities in Isabela Province.. In Maconacon, Divilacan and San Mariano. Our office is located in Cabagan at the campus of Isabela State University.
Slide30
Philippine Crocodile survives in an extensively cultivated upland area of San Mariano. This area is the place where we first found the Philippine Crocodile.
Slide31
This is another habitat of the Philippine Crocodile, Disulap River.
Slide32
And Dunoy Lake which is found within the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. Here you can also find the Isabela Oriole and the newly described Bitatawa.
Slide33
This is Dinang Creek.
Slide34
Where you can find people washing their clothes and carabaos bathing during the day
Slide35
but during the night, in the same spot you will see an adult Philippine Crocodile.
Slide36
The Indigenous people here, the Agta and the Kalinga respect the crocodile because of their traditional beliefs.
Slide37
But all beliefs are vanising and so the crocodiles. This is the same crocodile that you saw basking on the rock… A picture of this individual was even on an official postal stamp of the Philippines. But it was killed in 2010 by an unknown person.
Slide38
Electrofishing is sometimes still observed and this threatens the crocodiles and their food supply.
Slide39
And unsustainable farming still continues and threatens ecosystem services, the livelihood of upland farmers and biodiversity.
Slide40
Larger crocodiles live in fast-flowing rivers.
Slide41
And suitable habitat for small crocodiles is rare. Most Mashes have been converted into ricefields.
Slide42
The Mabuwaya Foundation is working very closely with the DENR, LGU’s Leiden University and Isabela State University
Slide43
to answer the question “how can we conserve the rarest crocodile on the planet?”
Slide44
Mabuwaya uses a community-based conservation approach aimed at local acceptance and participation in crocodile conservation.
Slide45
There is a little public support for Philippine crocodile conservation.
Slide46
Because of things like this….
Slide47
Now, can crocodiles and people co-exist in the Philippines?
Slide48
We believe that Communication is the key. We produce information materials and posters.
Slide49
We use the Philippine crocodile as flagship species for sustainable wetland management.
Slide50
We also use active communication such as theatre shows during fiestas.
Slide51
Puppets shows in the schools.
Slide52
And a party with Krokey so that fear of crocodiles will be lessened if not removed.
Slide53
We conduct school lectures for elementary and high schools.
Slide54
And we organize school visits for college students to give them the chance to see crocodiles in the wild.
Slide55
We also use interactive communications such as workshops and community consultations so we can discuss issues about crocodile conservation.
Slide56
And we encourage local participation in land use planning.
Slide57
Using 3d Modelling, so they can clearly visualize areas for conservation.
Slide58
We train local people on environmental law enforcement.
Slide59
And teach them proper documentation when they will arrest violators.
Slide60
So they will be effective law enforcers.
Slide61
To strengthen the protection efforts more, the people declared fish and crocodile sanctuaries.
Slide62
And local ordinances were enacted.
Slide63
Aside from these, we also do crocodile nest protection.
Slide64
Up to the time that eggs are hatched.
Slide65
To increase survival of the hatchlings, we collect them and
Slide66
bring them to the rearing station where we take care of them up to 2 years.
Slide67
Soft release ponds are constructed.
Slide68
These ponds serve as soft relase areas for the head-started crocodiles
Slide69
where children and community members release their crocodiles.
Slide70
The community based-conservation approached is successful, the killing of crocodiles has dropped.
Slide71
And the population of crocodile is slowly increasing.
Slide72
Philippine crocodile conservation also benefits other species.
Slide73
Now people in San Mariano take pride in their crocodiles.
Slide74
And they also benefit from it. We provided a pump well for them.
Slide75
And now people claim that since wetland and wetland resources are better protected. They have more fish to catch and cleaner water.
Slide76
But there are also costs to communities that live near crocodiles such as livestock predation.
Slide77
Crocodile attacks happen, especially if you don’t follow the rules.
Slide78
Regulations on buffer zones are not strictly implemented. Such as this picture.
Slide79
And this one… what will happen to this pig if a crocodile is roaming in his habitat?
Slide80
So we are still doing all of these activities to lessen crocodile conflicts. These are reforestation of buffer zones, provision of pump wells so people don’t have to go to the river to take a bath or get water, building of livestock pens, and informing people of how to live together with crocodiles. We hope that in time we will achieve our goals of protecting crocodiles and lessening conflicts and that people and crocodiles can live happily together .
Slide81
And to anyone who would like to know more about the Philippine crocodile and our conservation work, buy this book and you are already giving your share for Philippine crocodile conservation.
Slide82
Thank you very much and Mabuhay Buwaya!

6 Comments

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  2. John Olsson

    Hello Folks. Great work you guys are doing. I wish I could be there to help. Would like to know more about the large croc that was killed in 2010. How was it killed and were the perpetrators apprehended? It looked like a salt water croc, and was too large to be a Mondoro croc. Is that correct? Please keep me posted. John

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