THIS is the season when all sorts of wildlife from coral reefs to tarsiers, butterflies to hundred foot trees—are being put in the spotlight.
Since communities and organizations worldwide have chosen the month of May as the “International Month for Biodiversity,” the role of the a wide variety of life forms are celebrated for keeping forests, oceans, rivers, even cities and other ecosystems healthy and functioning.
Without the contributions of these wonders of nature, there’s a pretty good chance that we wouldn’t be around right now. And that is why Haribon Foundation enumerated unique Philippine environmental characteristics to introduce people to the uniqueness the country’s biodiversity.
1. Killer whales
Warm tropical seas make up a sizeable chunk of the Philippines’ territory making us irresistible to even the largest of creatures including the famous “Orca” or Killer Whale (orcinus orca). In fact, up to 27 other marine mammals called cetaceans can be found here as residents or passing through as migrants. We’re the place to be for dugongs, dolphins, and other whales looking for a place to eat.
Despite their names, Orcas are not known to attack humans much less prey on them, preferring to feed on fish and other large sea animals. Also, they are highly social and behave like any human family, from mothers giving milk to newborns to playing games with nearby whales.
2. Beautiful butterflies
If you only had a week to spend on earth, you would probably stay in a paradise-like island within the Philippines. With a lifespan ranging from only a few days to a few months, all kinds of butterflies and moths (which both fall under the Lepidoptera order) have found haven in the Philippines, with more than 15,000 plants to feed on in local fields.
There are up to 915 species and 910 subspecies are in the Philippines, showing there’s more to see than what lives in city gardens and empty lots. More importantly, as brief as their lives may be, the contribution of butterflies extends far in to the future as they pollinate and promote the growth of our flowering plants to keep ecosystems functioning.
3. Philippine seas
The world’s center for fish and corals is called the Coral Triangle, and the Philippines is in center of it. The country is also blessed with one of six existing double barrier reefs, which is located in Danajon Bank, Bohol.
Over half of Philippine municipalities are considered as coastal areas that rely heavily on marine resources for livelihood and protection from disasters. Additionally, fish is the number one source of protein in the country, stressing the need to protect Philippine seas even more.
4. 100-feet trees
Apitong, guijo and lauan are some examples of native trees found in the Philippines that easily grow to more than 100 feet. Unfortunately, these native trees are also on track for extinction.
Not only do logging, mining, and kaingin rapidly destroy 22 percent of the country’s forest cover but are also being replaced with non-native and invasive species such as mahogany, acacia and gmelina.
These exotic trees are suited more for logging than restoring the health of original forests. Trees such as Mahogany can alter the composition of their surrounding soil and discourage the growth of other wildlife, reducing a forest’s biodiversity levels.
5. Philippine Eagle
The critically endangered Philippine Eagle is the largest of its kind in the world. It reaches up to three feet in height and boasts a seven-foot wingspan. It is the most majestic example of wildlife in the world.
As apex predators, Philippine Eagles are at the top of the food chain with flying lemurs, snakes, smaller birds, and even monkeys in their diet. Their local name, Haring Ibon, indicates just how undisputed they are as kings of Philippine forests.
And as kings, the only thing that can bring them down is a fellow top predator—humans. Through a century of hunting and destroying its habitat of primary forests with native trees, humans have reduced their number to 300 pairs in the wild. With each pair needing an estimated 100,000 square kilometres of healthy forests, Philippine Eagles are finding it harder each year to feed and breed.
To date, thousands of species are still waiting to be discovered in the Philippines. Some will surely look unconventional, while some will have even more bizarre behaviours. But all are important in maintaining the environment. Let’s keep them alive in the wild and out of cages.