Students decide to save endangered town snail
We had to risk losing the contest by shifting our business plan rather than risk the extinction of our key persona – the takyong.
This was how Girlie Garces, Communications Officer of San Miguel Brewery, described how “takyong” — a snail found in Borbon town, northern Cebu — changed the team’s whole perspective.
Garces was one of the mentors of Southwestern University (SWU) business students, who joined the recently concluded Obra-Negosyo-Eskwela Countryside Enterprise Business Upliftment (One Cebu).
The SWU business students team chose “takyong” as the product they wanted to develop and market.
Takyong is a snail considered a delicacy in Borbon town.
At first, Garces said they thought this was an easy task since all they had to do was to partner with the students, help them prepare the business plan, set up the business while they share their experiences in organization and marketing.
As the group proceeded, they studied the snail’s life cycle.
They visited Borbon town upon the invitation of Mayor Butch Sepulveda to learn more about the snail.
The group brought along with them Biology professors Geofe Cadiz and Mary Joyce Flores of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division of the University of the Philippines-Cebu (UP-Cebu).
Garces also went to the highlands of Borbon to study the snail.
“We got to appreciate the uniqueness of Takyong. It clung to smooth-surfaced trunks and fed on dew that came from the leaves. These creatures had no clotilium or the closure often found at the bottom of a shell, without one they were vulnerable,” she said.
After the visit, they had their first product presentation of the “Takyong Guisado”. This caught the attention of the judges.
The second product presentation was a prepared dish of Takyong meat which was bottled and labeled in a preserving jar. The students also prepared key chains from decorative Takyong shells to show that nothing would be put to waste.
Garces and the students aimed to producing the takyong in bottled preparations for viands and gourmet concoctions. Then they received an email from Cadiz and Flores, informing them that UP Los Banos scientists identified takyong as belonging to an endangered species of snails – called Helicostyla daphnis.
The species was considered to be “possibly extinct” according to an article entitled Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World written by Anne Hildyard and published last 2001.
Flores said their initial findings showed that the takyong preferred to inhabit trees and shrubby areas and would die if they fall to the soil or water. They usually give birth on the leaves.
Cadiz and Flores said the specie could be endemic in Cebu.
“This meant altering our business plan to something that would sustain its availability,” Garces said.
With this development, Garces and the students decided to alter their business plans to preserve the snails.
The municipal council of Borbon then passed an ordinance prohibiting the harvesting of the snails from declared sanctuaries.
Mayor Sepulveda and the council also provided a fund to encourage barangays to culture the snails in their areas which led to the barangays taking care of their trees and placing skirts around the trunks so the snails would not fall to the ground.
From marketing the snail product, sustaining the supply became their major concern.
“Side by side with sustaining the supply of the snail, the students also studied tourist offerings and came up with the Takyong Village Eco-tour,” Garces said.
The shift of the business plan from a simple carenderia delicacy to a Takyong Village Eco-Tour caused the SWU business students’ team the One Cebu contest.
Despite the loss, Garces and the group decided to see the project through.
The students stayed and lived in Borbon for two months – to monitor the preparation of the farms and to train the farmer-entrepreneurs. Borbon town officials also helped to secure a market for the product.
She said the town people also learned to plant trees to help takyong and the business to grow and survive. /Carmel Loise Matus Correspondent