MEMBERS of the Bantay Bukid, a Watershed Management Council (WMC)-deputized forest guard volunteer group, have reported frequent sightings of the native wild pigs along the slopes of Mt. Tipolog, in Barangay Tawantawan, in the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed.
“In previous years, we have rarely seen the baboy ihalas in these parts. Now, we encounter them frequently, especially when we conduct our regular inspection trek of Mt. Tipolog,” said Stephen Matondo, Bagobo tribal elder and Bantay Bukid team leader for the Sumpitan area.
The Philippine warty pig, Sus philippinensis, is categorized by the International Union of Conservation for Nature (IUCN) as a Vulnerable species due to habitat loss, over-hunting and genetic hybridization.
Hunting baboy ihalas, however, is a cultural practice among indigenous peoples living in the watershed.
Matondo believes that the recent tree-planting activities in the Panigan-Tamugan watershed area have contributed to the frequent sightings of baboy ihalas in the area.
“Ever since we’ve begun planting native trees here, the animals have been coming back,” he said.
In 2013, Mt. Tipolog was the site of a rainforestation project funded by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes, who welcomed the news, said that this is an indicator that forest biodiversity is making a comeback.
“As the native trees grow and mature, they provide habitats for the local wildlife that allow them to recover their population.”, she said.
She also said that the presence of volunteer forest guards who regulate wildlife hunting and the continuous information and education campaigns by the WMC could also be factors in the return of the wild pig to the watershed.
IDIS is currently working with the city’s Watershed Management Council (WMC) on the Adopt-A-Riverbank Project, another rainforestation initiative along the riverbanks of Panigan and Tamugan rivers, the future source of Davao’s drinking water.
The project which is also funded by the FPE helps facilitate multi-sectoral support and involvement in the care and nurture of riverbank forest zones.
“By expanding the forest cover from the slopes of Tipolog down to the banks of Panigan and Tamugan, we hope to stimulate the growth of more forest corridors to allow the recovery of other significant, endemic wildlife populations,” Fuertes said.
In 2012, IDIS had commissioned a resource assessment study of the Panigan-Tamugan (PT) watersheds area and found out that the PT watershed is a center of endemic biodiversity. Around 28 species of forest vertebrates and plants that can only be found in the region are dependent on the watershed for survival.
With the return of the baboy ihalas, Fuertes said that this is an opportunity for wildlife researchers to conduct population studies on this species to better understand them and to create better conservation measures and policies.
“So it’s really important to sustain these rainforestation activities in the watershed. Because not only can rainforestation protect local flora and fauna, but it can also protect the quality of the river waters which is important especially now that the city is looking at Panigan-Tamugan as the future source of drinking water,” she said. (NEWSDESK ASIA)