The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Western Visayas observed the celebration of World Wildlife Day (WWD) on March 3, 2020. This year’s theme, “Sustaining All Life on Earth,’’ aims to promote the importance of varieties of wild fauna and flora, to raise awareness of the threats encountered by the species and to protect and conserve wildlife resources.
The Philippines is the second largest archipelago with 7,641 islands with a population of over 100 million, and is projected to reach 125 million by 2030. It is also one of the 17 mega-diverse countries with unique characteristics of wildlife species.
There are more than 52,177 described species and half of them are endemic. These distinctive species comprise of amphibians with 114 species and reptiles with 342 species. The country is known as the 4th most important country in bird endemism with 695 species and 5th in the world in terms of total plant species, making Philippines evidently abundant with wildlife species and resources.
Although the country is rich with biodiversity, it also faces perilous circumstances, making wildlife crime the fourth most lucrative illegal business here after narcotics, human trafficking and arms. The value of Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) in the country is estimated at P50 billion including the market value of wildlife and its resources, ecological role and value, damage to habitat incurred during poaching and loss of potential ecotourism revenues.
The suppressing illegal wildlife trade in the country were driven by the following reasons: species are poached to supply national and international black markets for exotic pet trade purposes, meat for luxury food, scales and skins used to make ornaments, pieces for jewelries, and frenzied of over collection for traditional medicine and rumored to cure HIV/AIDS that is sold at thousands of pesos.
Here in Western Visayas, there are five key species namely, Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons) considered Critically Endangered (CR), Philippine spotted deer (Rusa alfredi) considered Endangered (EN), Rufous-headed hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni) considered as Critically Endangered (CR), Visayan hornbill (Penelopides panini) considered Endangered (EN), and Negros bleeding heart pigeon (Gallicolumba keayi) considered Critically Endangered (CR) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
The DENR enforces environmental laws to combat illegal wildlife trade that has economic, environmental and social impacts through confiscation and seizures of wildlife animals and plants. Continuous information, education and communication (IEC) campaign helps raise awareness in saving these species.
The Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, provides for the safeguarding of Philippine flora and fauna.
“We depend on biodiversity to live and survive here on Earth thus in our hands, lies the power to save and preserve these wildlife species for a balance and healthful ecology, “said Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr.
Enhancing biodiversity conservation is one among the ten priority programs of the DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu. (DENR-6)