Davao City – A team of wildlife researchers from the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc. (PEF) has found that the remnant of lowland dipterocarp forests in the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan (TL-PT) Watersheds, the current and future source of Davao’s drinking water, is the habitat of some twenty eight species that can only be found in the Philippines.
“We were able to document 171 vertebrate species, 28 of which are endemic to the Philippines”, said lead researcher PEF Conservation Director Jayson Ybanez who presented the study at the Ateneo de Davao University last April 15, 2013.
The survey is part of the TL-PT Watershed Resource and Socio-Economic Profile, which aims to provide technical information to help stakeholders identify and plan the most cost effective way to protect and manage the watersheds.
The study revealed that the TL-PT Watersheds is home to the Philippine eagle, the Tarictic hornbill, the rare Mindanao montane racquet tail, the Mindanao scops forest owl, the Mindanao fruit bat, the Philippine flying lemur and the Philippine pygmy squirrel.
The team also observed at least two critically endangered tree species as classified by the IUCN. These are the White miranti and the Tanguile species.
The Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) which commissioned the study under a grant from the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that the findings underscore the importance of the TL-PT watersheds.
“The richness of the biodiversity in the remaining forest cover of the watersheds should impel every Dabawenyo to protect the watersheds. As reservoirs of biodiversity, these forests are essential to the survival of our endemic species.”, said IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes.
However, unsustainable agriculture, illegal logging and population pressure continue to threaten these fragile habitats and may force twenty eight of these species into extinction, according to the report.
“One of the threats that we found out is that slowly, banana plantations and farms are slowly encroaching towards the forest, even in areas which are considered environmentally critical areas as defined in the Watershed Code.”, said Ybanez.
In addition, with only the Malagos watershed as the sole remaining lowland forest that can support these species, it may take some time before the current reforestation initiatives bear fruit and allow these species to thrive again in the watersheds.
The proponents of the research urge that a more holistic and inclusive approach should be undertaken in order to conserve the remaining species and habitats and to sustainably rehabilitate the deforested slopes.
This include the use of convergence-building efforts which promote open, participative and effective processes in addressing issues of conservation and resource management.
“Adaptive management would be a good scheme, wherein interventions are considered experiments where you refine your way of doing conservation and through that, all of your partners learn through doing.”, said Ybanez. ( MINDANAO DAILY MIRROR)