SOS Grantee Katala Foundation’s Peter Widman shares a short update from the Philippines on continued work to re-introduce the Critically Endangered Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) in the wake of unforeseen events concerning the proposed development of a coal fired power plant directly in the birds’ flight path.
All conservation projects try to anticipate outside effects and possible mitigation measures, explains Peter. However, in some cases reality surpasses the biggest fears of conservation managers. This was the case when plans to construct a coal-fired power plant less than a kilometre away from Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary were revealed. The sanctuary is the last stronghold for the Philippine Cockatoo and the only available source area of birds for re-introduction. The planned power plant would have cut off the cockatoos from their feeding grounds on the mainland of Palawan. It took more than a year of intensive campaigning and networking, numerous protests on local, national and international levels, including from IUCN, to prevent the project.
Only after it was clear that the plant would not be built in the vicinity of Rasa, preparations for the re-introduction resumed. A national workshop for site-specific planning was held in Manila with representatives from the two top-scoring re-introduction sites, as well as from the source area (Rasa Island). In the meantime, Peter elaborates, “preparations on Siargao Island in the south-eastern part of the Philippines are well under way to prepare the site for the arrival of the cockatoos”. A former poacher was hired and trained and is currently patrolling the proposed release area. Also, a conservation education campaign has been implemented while the local village cooperative was contracted to produce and plant seedlings of mainly food-providing plants for the cockatoo. Additionally, a collapsible pre-release aviary was constructed and is stored on site for accessibility.
Equally importantly, endorsements from the authorities from the source and the release sites have been secured to allow a speedy transfer of birds when the time for the reintroduction has come. With these developments, Peter is hopeful that the project can continue to progress and the cockatoos will soon be facing a more secure future in their tropical home.