Preserving Philippine biodiversity, one species at a time

Balabac Mousedeer

“Galapagos times 10” is the term used to describe the richness of Philippine ecology. Generally considered as the “hottest” hotspot in biodiversity, we have more than 20,000 endemic species calling our patchwork of islands home.

Sheltering under the canopy of our vast rainforests and frolicking in our waters are some of the world’s most unique creatures – the Philippine mouse deer, the world’s smallest hoofed mammal; the Palawan peacock pheasant, widely considered to be the most beautiful of the peacock species; the Philippine Eagle, one of the rarest eagles in the world; the whale shark or butanding, the world’s largest fish and a host of others.

Philippine Eagle

But with rampant deforestation, habitat loss and growing population pressure, many of these species are in peril with nearly 500 species listed in the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) for 2006 (www.redlist.org).

Conservationists fear that without immediate intervention, the Philippine hotspot is on the brink of an extinction crisis that would devastate our incredible natural wealth.

Palawan peacock peasant

Today, CEMEX Philippines Foundation takes action to help safeguard these endangered species. In partnership with Conservation International (CI), CEMEX is launching its

Adopt-A-Species program, a long term Conservation plan that will provide a framework to engage the private sector, local communities and even individuals in efforts to

protect these species and their habitats. CI is a worldwide champion of biological diversity and CI Philippines is fighting on all fronts for the benefit of future life in our glorious archipelago.

Tamaraw

Sierra Madre forest frog

Among the goals of the Adopt-A-Species program are the determination of priority species in need of protection based on the IUCN red list and developing financial and operational mechanisms that will allow any company or individual to adopt threatened species in the Philippines. It also aims to pass legislation on Wildlife Conservation that will provide incentives for individuals and companies to encourage them to get involved in species conservation.

Donsol, Sorsogon:
Whale Shark Sanctuary

CEMEX kicks off its Adopt-A-Species program by adopting the whale shark. A small fishing town in Sorsogon actually plays host to the annual visitations of the largest fish in the world. Off the coast of Donsol, swimming in its clear waters from November to May, come large groups of the gentle and playful whale sharks, known to locals as butanding.

Contrary to the fierce image of sharks in Jaws, the butanding are docile and playful creatures. Between 15 and 40 feet in length and weighing about 20 tons, they are easily recognized for their broad head and the profusion of silvery polka dots along its body. Incapable of biting and chewing, they suck in water with prey, and feed on plankton and krill.

Whale Shark

Whale Shark (Butanding)

A group of Filipino divers documented the sighting of the whale sharks in the waters of Poso, the southernmost barangay of Donsol on 1998 and since then, tourists have begun flocking to Donsol for the chance to spot and even swim with these gentle giants of the deep.

But earlier interactions between whale sharks and people have been less friendly. For many years, fishermen have been hunting the butanding to supply the high demand for its meat and medicinal by-products in other Asian countries, where it is considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

This led to the steady decline in the population of butanding in the country and alarmed by the problem, the Philippine government declared the whale shark as an endangered species in 1998, banning its plunder and exploitation.

The booming eco-tourism industry has also helped to protect this unique creature. For the nature enthusiast, swimming with the whale shark can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – an experience CEMEX and CI would like to preserve for many years to come.

Print Friendly

Comments are closed.

News Archive