Rare deer born in Bacolod

A Visayan spotted deer fawn was born recently at the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation’s Biodiversity Conservation Center (NFEFI-BCC) in Bacolod City.

The sex of the fawn is not yet determined. It’s the fourth offspring from breeding pair Girom and Sandy. There are currently 14 deer at the center.

Mother Sandy and fawn

Mother Sandy and fawn

“The Visayan spotted deer is the largest endemic species of the West Visayas Faunal Region,” said Dr. Joanne Justo, the center’s curator.

“The species is now critically endangered and currently known to occur only in Negros and Panay islands. Deforestation and hunting for food and pet trade have greatly contributed in the decline in number of deer.”

The NFEFI-BCC is breeding this species in captivity and eventually the captive-bred animals will be released back into the wild. But this can only be done once studies have proven that the habitat is adequate and well-protected for their survival.

In the meantime, the center is involved in animal exchanges (or ‘breeding loans’) with other DENR-accredited institutions to ensure the genetic diversity of the captive population.

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Will the Philippines become a hornbill graveyard?

Dr. William Oliver

Dr. William Oliver

British conservationist Dr. William Oliver, director of Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc (PBCFI), believes another species of Philippine hornbill will become extinct within the next five years.

Oliver, a frequent visitor to Bacolod as the PBCFI is a partner of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI), made the prediction at last week’s International Hornbill Conference in Makati.

“It’s inevitable and it’s depressing,” he said “But, with sufficient effort the future can be secured if enough priority is given to these magnificent birds. Having said that I don’t hold out a lot of hope for a large percentage of that species.”

Oliver stressed that the extinction of a hornbill sub-species was not new to the country.

“Among the world’s 57 hornbill species, the Ticao Tarictic, a subspecies of the Visayan hornbill found only on Ticao Island in Masbate, is considered extinct,” he added

Visayan tarictic hornbill

Visayan tarictic hornbill

Dr. Joanne Justo, curator of the NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Bacolod City said that hornbills are an eye-catching bird species with noticeably large, colorful beaks. Unfortunately for them, this makes the birds attractive pets.

“But the biggest threat to hornbills is habitat loss. They depend primarily on forests to survive and with the country’s dwindling forest cover, the hornbill’s chance of survival also declines,” she said.

Oliver added: “It’s a rule of thumb that if you’ve lose 95 per cent of your forest, you lose 50 per cent of your species.”

He noted that Mindoro has lost more than 93 per cent of its forest over.

Mining is also a threat to hornbills as mining companies use vast forest areas for their operations.

Oliver said there is no one-size fits all solution to hornbill conservation. But added that awareness of the problem is a positive first step.

“We need to get more people in the Philippines to be aware that this country is endowed with a

The Rufous-headed hornbill

The Rufous-headed hornbill

huge diversity of hornbills. Not only are they beautiful birds, they also perform a valuable ecological services such as seed dispersers.”

In the Western Visayas the Rufous-headed hornbill (Aceros waldeni) is considered  one of the most threatened hornbill species in the world. It is only known or presumed to occur only in three islands – Panay, Negros and Guimaras.

The other species of hornbill found in Negros is the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini).

NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center at the Provincial Lagoon is home to many threatened animals and birds including three species of hornbills. Members of the public can see these remarkable birds as well as other rare and endangered animals including warty pigs, spotted deer and leopard cats at the BCC from Mondays to Saturdays.

Hornbill gab slated for April 24-26

6th International Hornbill Conference

6th International Hornbill Conference

Dr. Joanne Justo, curator of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation’s (NFEFI) Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Bacolod City, will join other experts at the 6th International Hornbill Conference at the Ayala Museum and Asian Institute of Management, Makati City on April 24-26.

Organized by the Wild Bird Cub of the Philippines, Hornbill Research Foundation and Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, this is the first time the conference will be held in the Philippines.

While the conference topic may appear to be somewhat esoteric to some, Dr. Justo emphasized that these beautiful birds play a serious role in our ecology as they are important seed dispersers and more needs to be done to protect them.

“A number of species of hornbill are threatened with extinction including the two species that are found in Negros Island,” said Dr. Justo.

“The Rufous-headed hornbill (Aceros waldeni) is considered  one of the most threatened hornbill species in the world. It is only known or presumed to occur only in three islands – Panay, Negros and Guimaras. They are already presumed extinct in Guimaras and very small number remains in the other two islands”

Visayan tarictic hornbill

Visayan tarictic hornbill

The other species of hornbill found in Negros is the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini).

The theme of the conference is ‘Hornbills and Caring Communities. Helping Forests to Thrive,’ reflecting the integral relationships between hornbills and ecological communities and the role they play in ensuring the sustainability of forests and providing ecosystem services.

Rufous-headed hornbill - critically endangered

Rufous-headed hornbill – critically endangered

Delegates from around the world will participate in the conference which aims to bring together people studying or interested in hornbills to present and share studies, information and conservation techniques.

Keynote speakers will be Dr. Pilai Poonswad from the Hornbill Research Foundation at Mahidol University in Bangkok and Dr. Juan Carlos Gonzalez, assistant professor at the Institute for Biological Sciences at UP Los Baños, Laguna.

Dr. Justo added that after the conference it is expected that a group of delegates will visit NFEFI where they will see the conservation center’s three species of  hornbills and hear about local programs to protect and conserve these and other wildlife.

World first for NFEFI

In another world first, the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI) has successfully bred two Visayan leopard cat kittens at its Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Bacolod City.

An adult Visayan leopard cat

An adult Visayan leopard cat

This is the first time this subspecies has been bred in captivity anywhere in the world .

The breeding pair were rescued early last year from La Carlota City – the female from the farm of former NFEFI president Gerry Ledesma and the male from a nearby farm. Both parents are around 20 months old. The kittens were born earlier this month.

“This is an amazing feat,” said Gerry Ledesma. “Breeding leopard cats is extremely difficult as these beautiful animals are sadly prone to many diseases, especially those spread by stray cats. I congratulate everyone involved at NFEFI, especially curator Dr. Joanne Justo and her team.”

This is the latest in a series of world first clocked-up by NFEFI in the conservation-breeding of endangered species. Other successful firsts include the Visayan tarictic hornbill in 1999, the Negros sailfin lizard in 2003 and the Philippine eagle-owl in 2005.

NFEFI has also successfully bred Visayan spotted deer, Visayan warty pigs and the Visayan bleeding-heart pigeons. All are critically endangered and endemic the West Visayas Faunal Region.

“All of these species are fully protected by law and it’s illegal to kill, capture, transport, buy, sell or maintain them in captivity whether as pets or animal collections except under special permits from the DENR,” said NFEFI president Teddy Boy Infante.

“Unfortunately, many of these animals are still hunted, whether for human consumption or for the exotic animal trade”.

The Visayan leopard cat - fully protected by law

The Visayan leopard cat – fully protected by law

The ongoing project ‘Partnerhips for Biodiversity Conservation: Mainstreaming to Local Agricultural Landscape (Biodiversity Partnerships Project)’ of the NFEFI, Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PBCFI), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Region VI, the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental, the different local governments units and other stakeholders is intended to increase the protection efforts in the biologically critical sites in the province, primarily the North Negros Natural Park and also the critical limestone forest fragments in south-western Negros.

Both areas are crucial to the survival not only of Visayan leopard cats but also to huge array of critically threatened species found only in West Visayan Faunal Region.

Protecting plant and animal resources

Representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Manila are in Bacolod City this week to attend a forum on Friday at the Provincial Capitol Building for all stakeholders involved in the Northern Negros Natural Park Biodiversity Partnership Project.

On a visit to the NFEFI enclosure: (front row l-r) Lisa Paguntalan, PBCF; DENR's Ann Malano and Rod Cava; UNDP's Jay Siasoco, Joey Regunay, Imee Manal and Grace Tena; Robert Harland, NFEFI; Lucille Titular (PBCF);  (back row l-r) Errol Gatumbato, PBCF; Ben-Hur Vilorio, UNDP; NFEFI's Lodel Maganua; Marissa Lizares and Teddy Boy Infante.

On a visit to the NFEFI enclosure: (front row l-r) Lisa Paguntalan, PBCF; DENR’s Ann Malano and Rod Cava; UNDP’s Jay Siasoco, Joey Regunay, Imee Manal and Grace Tena; Robert Harland, NFEFI; Lucille Titular (PBCF); (back row l-r) Errol Gatumbato, PBCF; Ben-Hur Vilorio, UNDP; NFEFI’s Lodel Maganua; Marissa Lizares and Teddy Boy Infante.

This project aims to help local governments and communities protect and conserve plant and animal resources.

The forum, hosted by the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI) and the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (PBCFI) will be attended by some 13 local government units, eight development NGOs and various government agencies.

Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition Ends

The 2012 Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition (NIBE) to the interior of the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP) ended on Tuesday.

The expedition team, comprising scientists, biologists, mountaineers, teachers and logistics experts from the UK and the Philippines, set off on March 24 to the park’s interior on a mission to undertake a comprehensive survey of the rare and unique mammals inhabiting the area.

NIBE leader James Sawyer (left) with two members of the team James Benares,  mountain leader and Dr. Neil D'Cruze, research leader.

NIBE leader James Sawyer (left) with two members of the team James Benares,
mountain leader and Dr. Neil D'Cruze, research leader.

Using 20 remote cameras team members were able to capture some 4,000 hours of footage, much of which showed evidence that the park is still home to a multitude of rare and endemic species.

The team also undertook an extensive study of study of various insects and rare reptiles and amphibians.

Expedition leader James Sawyer said the trip had been physically challenging, but it had been “a beautiful experience”. He added that the wealth of data collected on the expedition now had to be analyzed and assessed by local and international experts before any solid results could be released. He expects initial results to be available in the next few weeks.

The expedition was supported DENR, PEMO and the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI)

The UK members of the expedition will return to England Later this week.

Second Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition Underway

A team of environmentalists from the UK and the Philippines set off on Saturday on its second biological expedition to the interior of the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP).

The Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition (NIBE) team, which includes scientists, biologists, mountaineers, teachers and logistics experts, first ventured into the park in April 2009.

NFEFI president Paul Lizares, Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz, NIBE team leader James Sawyer, Dr. Neil D'Cruze, Dr. David Farrance, Ruth De Vere, Steven Megson, James Benares, Michael de la Peña, NFEFI trustee Robert Harland (l-r standing). Emerson Trinidad, Errol James Mallorca, June Rey Alib, Ernie Mallaoca (l-r front row)

NFEFI president Paul Lizares, Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz, NIBE team leader James Sawyer, Dr. Neil D'Cruze, Dr. David Farrance, Ruth De Vere, Steven Megson, James Benares, Michael de la Peña, NFEFI trustee Robert Harland (l-r standing). Emerson Trinidad, Errol James Mallorca, June Rey Alib, Ernie Mallaoca (l-r front row)

Team leader, London-based James Sawyer, said the findings of the 2009 expedition clearly showed that the center of the park contains some unique habitats.

“These require further scientific study, and that’s why we are back,” said Sawyer. “We hope the expedition will provide us with more data and analysis that confirms the park is of major biological importance.”

The park is home to a multitude of rare and endemic species, while also playing a vital role in watershed protection for surrounding communities.

Among its many activities during the three week expedition, the team will position 20 remote cameras in strategic areas so any movements by rare and threatened species such as Visayan Spotted Deer and Visayan Warty Pigs can be recorded.

The team will also undertake a study of local dung beetles as they feed on the waste of certain animals and they will indicate the presence of those animals.

And using pitfall traps, the team will be able to ascertain which reptiles and amphibians are present in the park.

The expedition is partnered by the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, Inc (NFEFI) which sponsored the permit enabling the expedition to enter the park.

Said Paul Lizares, president of NFEFI: “We are delighted once again to be working with the NIBE team.
We hope the results will be of further value in the management of this important park as well as help raise its profile even further.”

The expedition is also being supported by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of Oxford University, the University of Texas, the Philippines National Museum and the Natural History Museum of Oxford.

Adding support with logistics and security is Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz who praised the collaboration between a team of foreign nationals and local mountain trek leaders in  working together to preserve the biodiversity of local forests, particularly in the area of DSB.

The expedition will end on April 19.

In Search of the Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon

Nigel Simpson, Curator of Birds at the UK’s Bristol Zoo, was in Negros this week to discuss ongoing projects with local partner-environmental organizations including the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI) and the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (PBCFI).

ABS-CBN's Marty Go, Bristol Zoo's Nigel Simpson, NFEFI's Curator Dr. Joanne Justo, NFEFI Trustee Robert Harland

ABS-CBN's Marty Go, Bristol Zoo's Nigel Simpson, NFEFI's Curator Dr. Joanne Justo, NFEFI Trustee Robert Harland

The main focus of his visit was the Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of the most critically-endangered birds in the Philippines and number one in Bristol Zoo’s top 10 ‘at risk’ species.

The critically-endangered Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon

The critically-endangered Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon

The zoo, in association with NFEFI and PBCFI, has mounted a series of biodiversity surveys in Negros Occidental and Oriental to ascertain if the bird is still present.

“Even though there are only occasional sightings of this rare bird, we are optimistic there are still breeding pairs in the wild. BirdLife International estimates there are only 300 Bleeding Heart Pigeons left in Negros, so their future here is uncertain,” said Mr. Simpson.

“The problem is the drastic loss of lowland forest areas where the birds thrive, hence the low numbers. But with the establishment of more conservation areas we are confident their population can increase.”

NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center in Bacolod City has successfully hatched eight of these rare birds and they can be seen at the NFEFI compound by the Provincial Lagoon.

Said NFEFI’s Curator, Dr. Joanne Justo “These captive-bred pigeons could be released into the wild once protected areas have been established.

Bristol Zoo, which last year celebrated its 175th anniversary, is working with organizations like NFEFI and PBCFI to develop local conservation areas in various parts of the province where rare birds and other endangered animals can be released.

Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, an ABS-CBN crew

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, an ABS-CBN crew visited the NFEFI center by the Provincial Lagoon on Wednesday to record segments for this Saturday’s edition of its public affairs program Salandigan.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, an ABS-CBN crew visited the NFEFI center by the Provincial Lagoon on Wednesday to record segments for this Saturday's edition of its public affairs program Salandigan.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, an ABS-CBN crew visited the NFEFI center by the Provincial Lagoon on Wednesday to record segments for this Saturday's edition of its public affairs program Salandigan.

NFEFI Marks 25 Years of Environmental Work

But more funding is needed

The Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI), which has worked tirelessly for 25 years to protect and conserve the

Visayan Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of  the most critically endangered animals  in Negros

Visayan Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of the most critically endangered animals in Negros

environment and wildlife of Negros, is calling for more funds to continue its vital work.

“It’s an uphill battle”, said NFEFI president Paul Lizares. “Despite new laws and the work of our group, the environment is still getting a raw deal from many inhabitants with continued illegal logging, poaching, selling of endangered species and many other ‘crimes’ against nature.

“We are in danger of running out of time. If future generations are to enjoy their birthright of a beautiful environment we must all pull together and act before it’s too late”.

NFEFI projects are mainly managed by volunteers. Over the years these volunteers have worked to reforest hundreds of hectares especially in the all-important Upper Calimban-Imbang watershed, which provides clean drinking water to Bacolod.

NFEFI has also established one of the country’s leading conservation breeding centers. Housed by the Provincial Lagoon in Bacolod City, the center is home to some 120 endangered animals and birds.

As part of its drive to raise more funds and to mark its 25th anniversary, NFEFI will be hosting a donors’ reception on Friday, December 2 at Nature’s Village at 5:00pm. It’s being sponsored by CEMEX Inc.

The emblem for the reception is the Visayan Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of the most critically endangered animals in Negros.

“We welcome support from all those interested in helping to save our environment.  Members of the public can become NFEFI sustaining members for as little as Php1,000.00 a year. Corporate sponsorship is also welcome,” added Lizares.

A rare and critically endangered Philippine  Visayan Spotted Deer

A rare and critically endangered Philippine Visayan Spotted Deer

The reception will feature a short one-on-one discussion with prospective donors while Mitu Ato band from Palawan will play their music on indigenous instruments.  An art exhibit and photo sale will also help raise funds for the Foundation.

Any company, organization or individual wishing to support NFEFI and who would like to attend the reception can contact NFEFI at (034) 433-9234 or trustee RobertHarland on 09163437048.