Lockdown paves way for tamaraw poaching
Illegal hunting of the endangered and endemic tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) has increased amid the community quarantine, with poachers becoming “more aggressive” in entering conservation sites inside the Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park in Occidental Mindoro province, according to environment officials.
Since the lockdown in March and the slump in tourism activities, forest rangers and wardens, who also worked as porters and tour guides inside the 106,655-hectare natural park, have lost their income source.
Despite this, Neil del Mundo, coordinator of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP), said all the more they needed to “intensify patrolling,” especially since hunters were taking advantage of the quarantine to carry out illegal activities.
In April, Del Mundo said hunters had entered the protected area and killed at least one tamaraw, a yearling.
“They were armed (whereas wardens) were not. We couldn’t do anything much about them,” he said.
Over the years, conservationists have been working to repopulate the rare forest buffalo after its global population had dropped below a hundred in 1969, TCP said.
A population survey in April 2019 showed about 600 tamaraw remaining on Mindoro Island, with 480 of these thriving on Mounts Iglit-Baco.
The annual tamaraw head count scheduled in April was deferred due to the pandemic.The TCP has 24 tamaraw rangers and 32 wardens, most of them members of the indigenous Taw’buid, Buid and Iraya tribes in Mindoro.
Rangers, who reported longer hours of duty, received salaries of P7,000 to P12,500 a month, while wardens earned P3,000.But Del Mundo said the program’s budget was slashed by 10 percent after government funds were realigned in response to the coronavirus pandemic.To sustain the allowances of the wardens and of at least one TCP ranger, the nongovernment Philippine Parks and Biodiversity formed the Tamaraw Society, which aims to raise a year’s worth of salaries and benefits for the furloughed park workers.
“Our campaign is a COVID-19 emergency response to unite concerned groups,” said the society’s representatives, Nella Lomotan and Ann Dumaliang, in a statement.
So far, eight organizations and individuals, among them the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines, Masungi Georeserve and the Eco Explorations, have committed to each raise P20,000 for the crowd funding.
Del Mundo said the groups were aiming to raise over P1 million to sustain the tamaraw conservation efforts.
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