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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 13, 2020
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Critically endangered birds

Rock & Refuge

At least 32 species of birds, mostly endemic to the country, are declared as critically-endangered, based on the updated Philippine Red List of Threatened Faunal Species of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Management Bureau.

The declaration was contained in the DENR Administrative Order 2019 -09 issued last year. Of the 32 species, at least 11 were also recorded in Negros Island with the Negros fruit dove as the species that can only be found in the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park and nowhere else in the Philippines or other countries. This tiny fruit dove has never been recorded again following its discovery in 1953 from a single female specimen.

The remaining population of the three declared critically endangered species is only restricted or confined in Negros and Panay. These bird species are the Negros bleeding-heart pigeon, Rufous-headed hornbill, and the Visayan hornbill.

The Negros bleeding-heart pigeon was thought to exist only in Negros until it was discovered in Panay in 1996. The Birdlife International estimated the wild population of the Negros bleeding heart to less than a hundred in each of the islands where it exists. It is similarly listed as critically endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, as this lowland specialist species remains highly threatened, especially with the limited lowland forests left in both Negros and Panay.

The Rufous-headed hornbill was formerly thought already extinct in Negros since it has never been recorded in the island for quite sometime, until it was rediscovered a few years ago in the Northern Negros Natural Park in Negros Occidental. The species is likewise recorded in the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental in recent field surveys. The Birdlife International claimed that the population of the Rufous-headed hornbill is presumed to have decreased extremely and rapidly due to habitat loss, degradation, and hunting within its range over the last three generations.

Similarly, the Visayan hornbill is facing extreme threat to extinction in the wild. The Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. is now conducting annual count on the population of these two species of hornbill and their population trend could be established in due time. The late William Oliver, a British wildlife biologist, who spent more than two decades in wildlife conservation in the Philippine before he died in 2014, initiated the successful captive breeding of these two hornbills, which is now being managed by the Talarak Foundation Inc.

The Indigo-banded kingfisher, a species that has been recorded in Negros, Panay, and Cebu is included in the list of critically endangered species, along with Pink-bellied imperial pigeon, Celestial monarch, Colasisi, Blue-naped parrot and the migratory Christmas Island frigate bird. All of these have been recorded in Negros, too.

The critically endangered is the highest level of threat assigned to species that are extremely in danger from high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. In most cases, habitat degradation and loss and hunting are the primary factors why these birds are threatened. Most former habitats of these birds are now converted into other purposes, like settlement, agriculture, and industrial development.

The continuing decline and deterioration of the remaining habitats of these species remain as threats to their existence in the wild.

Most likely, one of the immediate candidates for declaration as extinct is the Negros fruit dove, as field surveys in the MKNP and other parts of Negros yielded negative results for the presence of this species. In fact, the Birdlife International is considering the Negros fruit dove as a lost species. However, intensive and focus field surveys are still required to determine the existence of this fruit dove that remains to be mysterious and elusive.*

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