MANILA, Philippines ? Tourists need not fly to Palawan to take a look at one of only two species of crocodiles in the country.
Five juvenile freshwater crocodiles once held in captivity at a wildlife center in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, have just been added to the Manila Ocean Park?s collection of wild animals.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources signed Tuesday a memorandum of agreement with park operator China Oceanis Philippines Inc. (Copi) to lend the crocodiles to the park for three years.
The crocodiles, all female, belong to the Crocodylus mindorensis species (freshwater crocodile), one of only two species in the country. The other is the Crocodylus porosus or saltwater crocodile.
?Seeing the crocodiles will inspire the public to help conserve these animals that have been bred in captivity at the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center,? Environment Secretary Lito Atienza said.
He said he was confident park officials would be able to handle these crocodiles well, and ?be able to disseminate information about its importance in our overall biodiversity.?
For its part of the deal, the park, the country?s first oceanarium, would turn over P30,000 each year to the Palawan farm to support conservation and research activities on crocodiles.
These would include studies to determine the distribution and conservation status of the freshwater crocodiles, the threat to their survival, and the extent of their remaining habitats.
The DENR established the wildlife center in Puerto Princesa City in 1986 to conserve the freshwater and saltwater crocodiles.
Under the MOA, the park should guarantee that the freshwater crocodiles be used strictly for public education, awareness and research, and not be used for breeding purposes.
The Philippine crocodile, considered a critically endangered animal, is relatively small, growing not more than three meters. It is believed that the primary cause of its reduced numbers today is commercial exploitation.
But the current threat is mainly from the removal of a suitable habitat for agricultural purposes to satisfy a rapidly expanding human population, MOP said in a statement.
?We are very happy that we were considered to be part of conservation and preservation efforts of the Philippine crocodile,? said George Lin, head of MOP?s curatorial department. With Tina G. Santos