03/03/2015

Blogs from the field - The best laid schemes: o' Mice an' Men

New fields are being cleared in the little primary forest that exists on Negros.

Another update from Neil in the Mantiquil forest.

The plan was fairly simple: select areas where there is reasonable chance that wildlife will pass by (tracks, pools, clearings); fix the cameras into position and see what’s out there. We are pretty confident that there are Negros bleeding heart doves left in the Mantiquil forest – we say that because Rene, a local farmer/hunter turned bird-watching guide, who knows his wildlife, has seen the birds a fair few times over the last year.  But we really do need to confirm they’re there, hence the camera traps.

Although the cameras can’t be used for much else but reacting to movement, nevertheless they are valuable bits of kit, so our cunning plan was to pay local farmers to look after them.  Day 3 saw our best laid plans “Gang aft agley”, with the result that three of the twelve cameras went missing.  A bit of persuasion from ourselves and good support from a number of the locals resulted in the cameras being handed in, but missing the straps that held them in place.

In all our fieldwork we believe in supporting local people to make changes.  But incentive programmes need to be balanced with agreements to change destructive behaviour.  This is crucial if we are to conserve the last remaining forests on Negros.  It is frightening how much damage just a few people can do to the forest if they continue with slash and burn practices.  It’s illegal for many reasons, but with law enforcement almost absent in the area, the carnage continues.  That’s why we’ve asked the local government to step up their policing and protect what remains, and we’ll continue with our sustainable livelihood support so that the local people do not suffer even more from wildlife conservation. 

In the meantime, we’ll keep looking to identify the animals that remain in the forest.  We know the cameras work – we managed to pick up some pretty good footage of some mice family species on Day 2, and we’re starting to find other animals such as white browed shortwing (see video).  We’ve also picked up some Visayan warty pig footprints nearby, but alas they’ve been camera shy so far!

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