International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) recently partnered with the Katala Foundation, Inc. to implement a wildlife research and conservation project within Palawan’s Victoria-Anepa’an Mountain Range aimed at improving the conservation status of a critical segment of the country’s threatened wildlife.
Led by the company’s social responsibility arm, the ICTSI Foundation, the program aims to improve the conservation status of threatened and endangered endemic species to Palawan, including the critically endangered Philippine Pangolin (Manis culionensis), Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), and the vulnerable Palawan Porcupine (Hystrix pumila); along with 12 other ground dwelling birds and mammals.
An identified key biodiversity area, the Victoria Anepa’an Range forms the central cordillera of the main island of Palawan, covering roughly 165,000 hectares and has a highly significant level of biodiversity with 41 percent endemism in terms of flora and fauna. About 31 percent of the species are of high global conservation significance.
Christian R. Gonzalez, ICTSI Global Corporate Head and President of the ICTSI Foundation, said: “ICTSI believes that with more people engaged in conservation initiatives – from local impacted communities, government agencies and private institutions like us – more resources will be available to inclusively address issues that matter from protection of threatened biodiversity to improved community life, education, and participation.”
He adds: “We look forward to this partnership as it also reflects the personal commitments of our shareholders to preserving wildlife and habitats and towards creating sustainable education initiatives protecting our natural heritage.”
Considered by many as “open access” for resource exploitation, the mountain range has seen high levels of illegal logging and wildlife poaching, particularly on the accessible southern fringes of the area facing the Sulu Sea due to easy access. The third most important population of the Philippine Cockatoo in the wild, a critically endangered endemic species, is holding on in the area for its survival.
Also very vulnerable to habitat loss, poaching and exploitation, the Palawan endemics Philippine Pangolin and Palawan Porcupine need to be assessed and monitored in order to effect protection and conservation measures.
Under the project’s first year, Katala and the ICTSI Foundation will be seeking Prior Informed Consent documents from indigenous people-stakeholders, along with the installation of camera trap data base within the targeted areas, conduct of awareness campaigns on threatened wildlife, and start-up activities to develop wildlife warden and patrolling schemes, among others.
Once completed, the project aims to facilitate formal protection of priority areas and help guide policy development for threatened wildlife in Palawan and the Philippines.
Joel G. Jimenez, President of the Katala Foundation said: “KFI is fortunate to partner with a Philippine-based private enterprise who shares the same vision. This initiative is exciting for us as we expand our on-going works in the area and with the lowland communities especially indigenous peoples, we implement projects that ensure the opportunities for their socioeconomic improvement.”
A long-term goal of the project is to come up with approaches and strategies to sustainably manage and conserve the forests of the Victoria-Anepa’an Range for the benefit of local communities and biodiversity.