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Together for Tamaraws with DENR and UNDP-BIOFIN
Uniformed TCP rangers scan the horizon for poachers. The makeshift pugakang or shotgun is used to scare off poachers, who are usually armed with long-range hunting rifles. The COVID-19 pandemic has left too few rangers to patrol the Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, the last stronghold of the critically-endangered tamaraw. “We need to tide our rangers and wardens through the COVID-19 pandemic so they can continue protecting the tamaraw,” explains Anabelle Plantilla, BIOFIN Philippines project manager. (Gregg Yan)
“These creative fundraising efforts show how the worst times can also bring out the best in people,” says DENR-BMB Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon. “Our Bayanihan Spirit lives on through crowdfunding. We thank our partners, donors and contributors in proving how everyone can do their part for conservation.”
Together for Tamaraws
Since March 2020, most of the Philippines has been under general or enhanced community quarantine. The country’s national parks were closed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
This left Mindoro’s Iglit-Baco Natural Park with little funding, cutting off the sole source of income for 32 wardens and one ranger, all members of Mindoro’s indigenous Taw’buid, Buid and Iraya tribes. Only 23 TCP rangers and three wardens are currently patrolling a core area of 2500 hectares inside the 106,655-hectare Iglit-Baco park, which hosts at least 480 of the world’s last 600 tamaraws.
Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) are endemic forest buffalo found only on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. Numbering only about 600, they are considered critically-endangered by the IUCN, the highest rating for any species. At least 480 live inside the forests and grasslands of the Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, with an additional 100 or so holding out in three more areas. (Gregg Yan)
“The Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) and Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) are indebted to those who have and will continue to help us,” says TCP head Neil Anthony del Mundo. “The assistance to be given to our wardens and rangers will go a long way in keeping both our tamaraws and protected areas safe.”
Critical Time for Biodiversity
#TogetherforTamaraws is led by the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) project under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau and MIMAROPA Regional Office.
In July, the Philippine Parks & Biodiversity NGO further created the Tamaraw Society for its 20 for 20 campaign where they called on 20 organizations or individuals to pledge or fundraise PHP20,000 each. The Tamaraw Society is currently comprised of the following 18 entities: D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm, Eco Explorations, Masungi Georeserve Foundation, Ecoheroes, Far Eastern University, Fund the Forest, JaDine Habb Fans Club, Kids for Kids / Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Giselle Sy, Hey Namski x FIASFUD, Michael Montesano, Oscar Lopez, Planet CORA, Elmer and Kitkat Mercado, Ruth Cabria, The Learned Tribe, Thirty Five Studio, and WWF-Philippines.
Dedicated rangers from the Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) and Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) continuously keep wildlife poachers and hunters at bay. (Thirty Five Studio)
“This is a critical time for Philippine biodiversity,” says UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Enrico Gaveglia. “With Philippine protected areas undermanned because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of plant and animal poaching is at its highest. We need to do our part in ensuring that our conservation frontliners have the means and capacity to continue their mission. After all, if not for the TCP and MIBNP rangers working hand in hand with the Mangyan communities of Mts. Iglit-Baco, the tamaraw might well be extinct.”
Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the past few months have been a challenging time for Tamaraw conservation in the country. In September, MIBNP and TCP rangers successfully intercepted and caught three tamaraw poachers drying meat inside the park. The poachers later escaped and are still at large. Kalibasib, the world’s only captive-bred tamaraw, also died last 10 October after 21 years in captivity.
Space Needed for Tamaraw Herds
Today’s tamaraw populations are fragmented, with only four remaining populations spread throughout Mindoro. From an estimated 10,000 heads in 1900, tamaraw numbers plummeted to under 100 heads in 1969. Conservation efforts have paid off tremendously, helping the population recover to over 600. Impressive, but still a far cry from the original population.
“To truly allow the tamaraw population to grow, it is essential to provide more space for the species,” says D’ABOVILLE Foundation program manager Emmanuel Schütz, another donor. “This is a landscape approach where local communities must and shall benefit from the environmental enhancement and security that tamaraw conservation induces.”
Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) rangers celebrate Tamaraw Month atop Mt. McGowen, locally called Mt. Magawang, in Mindoro Occidental. (Celine Murillo)
The donation turnover ceremony shall be held at Barangay Poypoy in Mindoro Occidental. The funds shall be used to pay for wages, supplies and equipment.
The DENR-BMB, UNDP-BIOFIN and its allies shall continue fundraising for Mindoro’s tamaraw rangers. Individuals who wish to donate can click bit.ly/TogetherForTamaraws or email email@example.com while those who wish to join the Tamaraw Society can click bit.ly/TamarawSociety.
Originally posted in: https://dailyguardian.com.ph/php1m-to-go-to-mindoros-rangers-this-tamaraw-month/
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