Blog from the field - Once More Unto the Breach

Here's a little more from Neil in the Philippines.

It does feel a bit like a battle.  On my last trip to the Philippines we travelled up the Canaway Valley, home to one of the last populations of the Negros bleeding heart dove (Gallicolumba keayi) and discovered newly carved fields from the previously pristine rainforest (see ‘Carrots and Sticks’, February 2015).  

We, the Bristol Zoological Society have a long track record of working with – rather than against - local poor people to generate solutions to their development challenges, without impacting on important wildlife populations. Along with our partner here, PENAGMANNAKI, we are discussing potential ways for shifting community behaviour (mainly slash and burn agriculture) such that the remaining forest is left intact.  But it’s clear that we need to put in some immediate actions to increase protection of the existing forest, as we are still witnessing huge destruction.  To that end we are looking to create the ‘Mantiquil Ordinance Protection Task Force’ so that illegal clearance of the forest is stopped as soon as possible.

The Mantiquil forest already has two local ‘Ordinances’ relating to the need to protect it; firstly because it is a critical watershed and the surrounding communities are heavily dependent on the forest remaining to provide permanent supplies of clean drinking water (Ordinance for maintaining a critical watershed’), as well as one for acknowledging the area as highly important for wildlife (‘Ordinance as a critical area for wildlife protection’).  The processes for protection are in place, now ‘all’ we need to do is to initiate the Task Force, which is part of the reason why I’m here.  We won’t stop our efforts to help poor benefit from, rather than suffer from, living alongside important wildlife areas, but if we don’t stop the current illegal cutting of the forest soon there’ll be nothing left to protect.  A best guess would be that we have about two years in which to reverse the process of slash and burn – a horribly short timescale.

The photo above looks across the Canaway Valley you can clearly see the deforestation of the ridge opposite.  The tropical rains wash away the top soil in a few years, making the Canaway River into a dry riverbed and resulting in a loss of the permanent drinking water for the people of Mantiquil.

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