DAVAO CITY – SEVENTY percent of the Philippine inventory of endemic bird species has been confirmed to be living in the Mt. Talomo-Panigan watershed area.
Results from a recent study conducted by the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc. (PEF) revealed that the watershed is home to at least 124 bird species as studied in a series of field surveys conducted from 1997-2012.
The Philippines has currently 169 endemic bird species on record, 45 of which are found only in Mindanao. According to the report, 66 of the 124 species which were covered by the research study are Philippine endemic, while 24 of them are Mindanao endemic. This led the study authors to conclude that the watersheds hold an “impressive” percentage of local avian fauna.
The study was commissioned by the Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) using funds coursed from the USAID through the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE).
IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes said that this significant find underscored the importance of Davao’s watersheds in protecting and sustaining a rich biodiversity of organisms that can only be found in the Mindanao region.
“Healthy watersheds are a vital reservoir of biodiversity which must be protected in order to sustain our local flora and fauna,” she said.
Other than the Philippine Eagle, the report also identified that the Tarictic or Mindanao hornbill, Penelopides panini, is the second most threatened bird in the watersheds due to illegal pet trade and because it is also being hunted for food. According to the report, “four species are ‘vulnerable’, including the Silvery kingfisher Alcedo argentata, an inhabitant of clean and forested streams, and the Mindanao scops owl Otus gurneyi, a forest owl found only in Mindanao.”
Dwindling forest cover has contributed much to the decline of the local populations.
“While deforestation continues to be a major factor in the degradation of the bird habitats, the presence of unsustainable and unregulated economic, domestic and agricultural activities has also contributed to the destruction of these birds foraging and breeding areas.”, Fuertes said.
The Talomo-Panigan watershed areas along with the adjacent Lipadas, are also the sites of aquifers which provide the current and future water supply of Dabawenyos. In recent years, corporate plantations have expanded into the area, clearing the fertile forest land to grow bananas and pineapples for export.
Fuertes hopes that this discovery will spur more Dabawenyos to actively protect the remaining forest cover and to rehabilitate the cleared-out areas.
“It’s important that Dabawenyos should come together to produce a collaborative multi-stakeholder watershed plan wherein different and sustainable courses of action will be identified by stakeholders to ensure an environmentally and economically healthy watershed,” she said.
Among the potential economic benefits resulting from this study is the development of community led ecotourism activities along the watershed area.
“Bird watching tours have been touted as the next best thing in attracting international and domestic tourists,” she said.
In 2010, the Department of Tourism has announced that birdwatching tours are the next best thing in Philippine tourism. As a biodiversity hotspot, the Philippines has over 600 bird species with a high concentration of bird species per kilometer.