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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, February 26, 2018
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Conservation Matters
with ERROL A. GATUMBATO
OPINIONS

Threatened species monitored

The first synchronized biodiversity monitoring and hornbill count conducted last year in the three terrestrial protected areas in Negros Island had confirmed the presence of numerous endemic threatened species in these sites.

Organized by the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in partnership with local government units, community organizations and other groups, the monitoring was conducted in the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, Northern Negros Natural Park, and the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park.

The survey recorded a total of 71 species of birds in the three protected areas, of which 41 are endemic only to the Philippines. Of the recorded endemic species, eight are included in the list of the threatened species by both the DENR and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Twenty species of birds, out of 26 recorded in the BTLNP in Negros Oriental, are endemic to the country and six of which are restricted range species, meaning they are only found in several islands in the Philippines. Of the recorded avifauna in the BTLNP, three are classified as threatened species.

The MKNP, covering Canlaon City in Negros Oriental, and three cities and two municipalities in Negros Occidental, yielded a record of 55 species of birds, 33 of which are endemic in the country with nine restricted range species and five threatened species. The NNNP, located in 11 cities and municipalities of Negros Occidental, has the most number of recorded bird species at 63 with 39 Philippines endemic, 10 restricted range, and eight threatened species.

The Rufous-headed hornbill, one of the world's critically endangered hornbills, was only recorded in the NNNP as no records were made for the MKNP and BTLNP in last year's monitoring. This hornbill, which can only be found in Negros and Panay and nowhere else, was thought to be extinct in Negros until it was rediscovered a few years ago in the forest patches of the NNNP in Victorias City.

Another threatened species of hornbill, the Visayan hornbill, was noted in the three protected areas during the monitoring, but only one individual each was spotted in the MKNP and BTLNP, while a total of 20 individuals were recorded in the NNNP.

Aside from Rufous-headed and Visayan hornbills, other restricted range species that have been observed in the monitoring include White-winged cuckooshrike, Grey-breasted brown dove, Visayan flowerpecker, and Flame-templed babbler.

In addition, marks of the critically-endangered Visayan warty pig were observed in the MKNP and NNNP, while tracks of the critically-endangered Visayan spotted deer were observed in Silay City, which is still part of the NNNP.

According to the report prepared by the PBCFI, these records only show that the three terrestrial protected areas in Negros cradle some of the most globally-threatened species, and they must be secured from destructive activities. Of the three protected areas, the NNNP has the largest remaining natural forest with a sizeable lowland type of forest, whereas the forests found in the MKNP and BTLNP are already in relatively higher elevations.

While there are still patches of forest in some parts of the Negros Island, the three protected areas account for contiguous forest covers that serve as important habitats to endemic and threatened species found in these sites. The forests in these areas are also serving as critical watersheds.

It should also be noted that these three sites have numerous other scenic features, such as lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, caves, and river system networks, among others, that are potential for sustainable nature-based tourism.

The management of these protected areas should be taken into the overall landscape and seascape of Negros, as they play a crucial role in providing long-term benefits, not only for the environment but also for the people of the island.*


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