An Inspiring Gathering Of Conservation Practitioners

In 1992, a small but dedicated group of local and foreign wildlife biologists and conservation scholars organized the first ever Biodiversity Symposium. Since then, been held every April in different locations around the country.

This year marked the 25th anniversary biodiversity symposium held in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. The commemorative convention once again gathered academic experts, practitioners, government officials, as well as students who took part in presenting their research and findings. Overall, it was a chance for all people working in the biodiversity conservation field to come together and share experiences.

Mindoro seemed an appropriate location for this anniversary symposium. As a unique island for biodiversity it can be seen as a metaphor for the biodiversity status of the Philippines as a whole. Mindoro island broke away from the larger land mass of modern day China around 45 million years ago and made its way to its current location.

However, it spent most of this time underwater. Thus the species that were able to evolve on the island are endemic (unique and found only in Mindoro). This makes the birds, insects, reptiles and mammals fascinating to study but unfortunately also make them highly susceptible to the threats of introduced species such as disease and competition for resources.

This is also the case in the Philippines as a whole, which is considered a biodiversity hotspot- that is, it has a very large number of endemic species. Studying these species and looking at advancing conservation methods is the only way to conserve the biodiversity of this country.

This year, Haribon gave two presentations: Local-scale drivers of tree survival in forest restoration sites in the Philippines by Thaddeus Martinez; The value of the Haring Ibon (Pithecophaga jefferyi) based in gender, age, and education in Mt. Dingalan Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) by Kahlil Panopio as well as a poster presentation; Revisiting avifaunal diversity of Buguey Wetlands IBA in Cagayan Valley, Philippines by David Quimpo. These diverse topics represent the breadth of work that Haribon does around the country and is also a reflection of the variety of issues that were presented at the symposium.

High school and undergraduate students undertook a variety of research projects and while all were impressive, it was Rafael Ryno Sanchez from Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology who won the overall presentation prize for undergraduate students following his informative and relevant talk on the altitudinal distribution and habitat requirements of stream frogs in Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP), Negros Island. His important research looked specifically at four endemic species of frog in the park. Such research is invaluable if we are to understand Philippine biodiversity and how to protect them.

"Inspring" was a word used frequently throughout the symposium and I would have to agree; to see these young scientists sharing the results of their important biodiversity conservation research with experts from around the world was certainly that. If these youngsters continue to work in the conservation field there is certainly hope for the future.

(Hazel Murray is from the UK but she studied Geography and Politics at the University of Otago, New Zealand where she also gained her Master's Degree in Social Geography, which is when she came to the Philippines for the first time to undertake research in the Mount Kanlaon Natural Park in Negros. Having been captivated by the country she returned as the Education Officer for Coral Cay Conservation operating in Southern Leyte and is back for a third time with Haribon. In her free time she enjoys biking around the hills of Antipolo, trying all the delicious pasalubong her office mates bring in from various provinces and reading in the shade of a native tree.)

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