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Indigenous Communities Saving the Philippine Eagle

Philippines

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  • Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle. Photo courtesy of Angelo Juan Ramos/Flickr.

The Philippines is one of the most forested island archipelagos in the world. With a high concentration of threatened species and a lack of protection, securing these key biodiversity strongholds is a conservation priority. On the largest Philippine Island of Luzon, which has suffered significant rainforest habitat loss, is the Sierra Madre Mountain Range that harbors a massive swath of old-growth tropical rainforest with many species endemic to the Philippines. This mountain range is home to a wealth of rare and threatened species, including at least one breeding pair of the iconic and Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle, along with various Endangered rainforest parasitic plants such as Rafflesia manillana and Coral Plant (Balanophora coralliformis). Unfortunately, native wildlife populations are drastically declining due to habitat destruction.

Rainforest Trust and local partner Daluhay Daloy ng Buhay seek $173,888 to designate 86,487 acres to form the San Luis Community Reserve. This will halt deforestation and prevent the rapid loss of biodiversity. The conservation initiative will include management plans that will preserve the forest ecosystems and indigenous communities who will be key stewards of this protected area once it is established.

Biodiversity

  • Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle. Photo courtesy of Sinisa Djordje Majetic/Flickr.

The area is a conservation priority because it contains high levels of biodiversity and endemism. It supports the iconic and Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle, which is threatened by deforestation and a lack of protected areas. Various Endangered rainforest parasitic plants such as Rafflesia Manillana and Coral Plant are found here, as well as threatened amphibians like the Polillo Wrinkled Ground Frog. Wildlife surveys discovered 35 mammal species on the highest peak of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. These include giant fruit bats, civets, wild pigs, deer, giant cloud rats and two species of forest rodents that are new to science.

Challenges

  • Illegal Logging camp. Photo courtesy of Daluhay.

The main threats to the proposed reserve are illegal timber extraction and wildlife poaching. Tourism outside of the proposed protected area has fueled a demand for hardwood found in this area. Fortunately, the proposed protected area has, to date, been largely inaccessible because of steep slopes and a lack of roads. However, there are plans to build a road network cutting through the Sierra Madre Mountain Range to increase access into this area, adding to the urgency of declaring this site as a reserve.

Communities

  • Dumagat Community dressed in traditional attire. Photo courtesy of Daluhay.

There are approximately 4,445 residents in seven villages surrounding the proposed protected area, and nearly half of the population is indigenous. The local partner will engage the communities through consultations, development trainings, forest guard trainings and by giving them the opportunity to provide input in the planning stages, as they will ultimately be managing the Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA).

Solutions

  • A planning session with Agata and Dumagat communities. Photo courtesy of Daluahy.

Rainforest Trust and local partner seek $173,888 to designate 86,487 acres to form the San Luis Community Reserve to halt deforestation and prevent the rapid loss of biodiversity. This designated ICCA will include management plans that will preserve the forest ecosystems and include the indigenous communities who will be key stewards of this proposed protected area.

The newly established protected area will be patrolled by forest guards from the local indigenous communities in collaboration with the Philippine National Police. Our partner will establish ranger stations in four strategic locations within the proposed protected area. They will integrate traditional methods of demarcating the protected area, including the planting of indigenous and culturally important trees along the boundary. The stakeholders primarily include the indigenous communities and the tribal councils from the eight settlements of San Luis who will be taking the lead in establishing the ICCA as a newly designated protected area.

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