In the 90s, I used to play Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction song. More than twenty years later, the record is a fitting soundtrack to what is happening with the world and its hundreds of thousands of endangered species facing the threat of extinction.
Let’s get this straight; extinction is a part of the cycle of life. It goes with the natural process of evolution. However, the current accelerating rate of extinction for animal and plant species cannot be attributed to nature but to human activities. Scientists now predict that approximately 10 million species will be extinct by the year 2050.
There are around 35 biodiversity hotspots around the world; biogeographic regions that are rich in biodiversity but are threatened by human activity and destruction.
The Philippines is considered a mega-diversity country. It is the second largest archipelago in the world, made up of 7,107 islands. Many of these islands are believed to have a very high level of plant and animal endemism. The country is host to over 52,000 described species and more than half of them are unique to the Philippines, meaning, they can’t be found elsewhere in the world.
Unfortunately, it is also the 18th most endangered biodiversity hotspot. Human activities such as mining, logging, increasing urbanization and development and agricultural practices, is responsible for large-scale habitat destruction, the exploitation of natural resources and wildlife, pollution and climate change.
Here are some of the country’s critically endangered animals:
The Philippine Eagle also known as the monkey-eating eagle, is the country’s national bird. Breeding in lowland rain forests, its total population is now estimated at less than 700 individual birds. Captive breeding programs have been unsuccessful and its only hope for survival is to protect its habitat, difficult to achieve due to increase rates of deforestation in the Philippines. With just 32 percent forest cover remaining and forests quickly vanishing, the Philippine Eagle is now a critically endangered species.
Commonly sighted in the 19th century, the Negros Bleeding-Heart is one of the rarest and most endangered birds in the world. The destruction of primary forests in Negros and Panay provinces for the purposes of agriculture, timber and producing charcoal is much to blame for their near extinction. As a result, only four percent of forest cover remains in Negros. Transferring to a secondary forest is not a suitable habitat for these birds since its natural habitat is unique to Negros.
Visayan Wrinkled Hornbill
The Visayan Wrinkled Hornbill, also known as the Rufous-headed Hornbill, was originally found in the islands of Negros, Panay and Guimaras. Due to severe deforestation, hunting and poaching, this incredible bird species has become extinct in the island of Guimaras.
On the upside, as a result of strict and successful nest-guarding programs in the Central Panay Mountain Range, poaching has decreased by 95 percent.
This type of bird was believed to be extinct due to habitat clearance but there were reported sightings in 1992. The Cebu Flowerpecker is so rare that it has only been found in two areas in Cebu. Due to illegal settlement, logging, road construction, developing and other human activities, the remaining forests in Cebu are dwindling and the population of the Cebu Flowerpecker is rapidly decreasing.
The critically endangered Tamaraw, also known as the Mindoro dwarf water buffalo, is considered the most threatened mammal in the Philippines. It was believed to be extinct as its last recorded sighting was in 1992 at Mt. Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary (MCWS) in Mindoro.
After 27 years, around four to six tamaraws were seen again during a Tamaraw expedition in mid-June led by the Tamaraw Conservation Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources together with partners MCWS Protected Area, DENR Occidental Mindoro, Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc and D’Aboville Foundation.
Palawan Bearded Pigs
The Palawan bearded pig or known in the region as as the “baboy damo” is still commonly sighted in a few areas of Palawan island but it has been classified as near threatened as its population is declining because of hunting and habitat loss due to agriculture, logging and urban development.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the freshwater crocodile also known as the ‘ Mindoro crocodile’ is considered the most threatened among all Philippine reptiles.
There are two types of crocodiles in the Philippines – the saltwater crocodile and the freshwater crocodile. The government promotes crocodile farming to promote sustainable operation of saltwater crocodiles through captive breeding. Only the captive-bred crocodiles are allowed for farming. Trading of freshwater crocodiles is prohibited by law as it’s estimated that just 250 are remain in the wild.
It is the most dominant fish species in Taal Lake but due to overfishing, illegal fishing and the deterioration of water quality due to pollution, the Sardinella Tawilis, the only freshwater sardine in the world, has seen a decline in its population and has been included in the IUCN list of endangered species.
These are just a few of the animals classified under threated species in the Philippines and are fully protected by the law. The disconnect lies in the enforcement of these laws. If Filipinos don’t protect the beauty and the richness of its archipelago, they may as well sing in chorus to Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction, sway to the symphony of destruction and wait until its human population faces decline.
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Feature image via Unsplash.