Sulu Garden Foundation site visit to Mari-it Wildlife and Conservation Park at WVSU-CAF as part of their biodiversity conservation initiatives.

October 9, 2022

Last August 11, 2022, Norielle Diamante, the Senior Science Officer of Sulu Garden Foundation (SGF), visited the Mari-it Wildlife and Conservation Park at West Visayas State UniversityCollege of Forestry (WVSU-CAF) in Lambunao, Iloilo to check on site the threatened wildlife within the center.

After a courtesy call with Dr. Dominador L. Lisao, WVSU-CAF Campus Administrator, she went to the center with IZN Focal Person, Forester Rod Reynan Laspiñas and the Director of WVSU Wildlife Conservation Center, Dr. JB Ian G. Bullo.

Inside the Mari-it Wildlife and Conservation Park with Dr. Bullo and For. Laspiñas.

The center is a forested area with cages to contain captive wildlife for breeding. Currently, there are seven (7) species of endangered wildlife present within the center.

Images within the center.

WALDEN’S HORNBILL

Hornbill dating area.

The first species we visited was the critically endangered Walden’s hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni). This species of hornbill was named after the Scottish ornithologist Viscount Walden. There are thirteen (13) individuals at the center and they have a specific dating area for hornbills. Each enclosure either includes a male and female or just one individual. They are locally called “dulungan” or “tariktik”. They are also known as writhed-billed hornbill, Visayan wrinkled hornbill or rufous-headed hornbill. They can only be found within the rainforests of the islands of Negros and Panay in the Philippines. It is one of Western Visayas’ Big 5 which also includes the Negros bleeding-heart pigeon, Visayan spotted deer, Visayan hornbill and the Visayan warty pig. (Source: https://animalia.bio/waldens-hornbill)

Male Walden’s hornbill perching inside its cage.

Walden hornbills’ cages.

To hear Walden hornbills’ call, click this link: Walden’s Hornbill – eBird

WARTY PIG

The Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) is a critically endangered endemic species of the Panay Islands in the Philippines and belongs to West Visayas’ Big 5. The center has ten (10) of them. The males are separated from each other as they tend to become aggressive toward each other. The juveniles are also separated to keep them from getting killed by adult males in small enclosures.

Locally known as “baboy talunon” or “baboy ramo,” these wild pigs love to wallow in the mud and cool themselves in the water. They also bump their body against the enclosures when they get aggressive. That’s why a stronger fence should be installed to keep them from running away. There are no studies available about them in the wild since their population is already very small and they evade humans as much as possible.

This species once ranged over at least six islands but they are now restricted to Panay, Negros, and maybe Masbate as a result of habitat loss and hunting. (Source: Visayan warty pig (Sus cebifrons) – Quick facts (ultimateungulate.com)

A juvenile wild pig separated from adults.

One of the warty pigs’ enclosures.

Male tarictic hornbill.

TARICTIC HORNBILL

Tarictic Hornbill’s scientific name is Penelopides panini.  The center has ten (10) of these endangered species. They have the same cage design as the Walden’s. However, their cages are far from them because Walden’s call is too loud. Also known as the Visayan hornbill and included in the Western Visayas’ Big 5.

These hornbills are found in rainforests on the islands of Panay, Negros, Masbate, and Guimaras, and formerly Ticao Island in the Philippines. (Source: Visayan Tarictic Hornbills aka Visayan Hornbills – Beauty of Birds)

To hear Tarictic hornbills’ call, click this link: https://ebird.org/species/tarhor1/

Cages of tarictic hornbills

VISAYAN SPOTTED DEER

There are twenty (20) Visayan Spotted Deers (Rusa alfredi) present inside the center. They are already considered an endangered species and have long been extinct in other areas within the Visayan islands. It is also one of Western Visayas’ Big 5.

This is one of the rarest, least known, and most narrowly distributed species of deer in the world. Long before R. alfredi inhabited the larger Visayan Islands of Panay, Negros, Cebu, Guimaras, Leyte, and Samar. Now, it is only thought to be found in three to four remaining patches of forest on the islands of Panay and Negros. (Source: ADW: Rusa alfredi: INFORMATION (animaldiversity.org)

Visayan spotted deer taking shade from the heat.

One of the spotted deer enclosures. They can be seen taking shade since its hot outside.

A lone male long-tailed macaque.

LONG-TAILED MACAQUE

There is only one long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) at the center. They can be found in southeast Asia from Burma to the Philippines and southward through Indochina, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They are found as far east as the Timor Islands.

Long-tailed macaques are “ecologically diverse.” Some of the habitats in which they have been found are primary forests, disturbed and secondary forests, and riverine and coastal forests of nipa palm and mangrove. Long-tailed macaques live most successfully in disturbed habitats and on the periphery of forests. (Source: ADW: Macaca fascicularis: INFORMATION (animaldiversity.org)

CIVET CAT

The civet cat or the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is locally-known as musang. Interestingly, their feces are collected for coffee-making since they eat coffee cherries and do not digest them completely. The coffee beans have a unique flavor as a consequence of the modifications produced by the civet’s digestive enzymes on the chemical composition of coffee beans (Burns et al., 2017).

The lone civet cat sleeping in its cage.

A female Visayan leopard cat.

There are three (3) female Visayan Leopard Cats (Prionailurus javanensis sumatranus) in the center. This is a vulnerable species and is locally known as “marang”. Little is known about this species.

On biodiversity conservation

At present WVSU-CAF relies on the generosity of the Lambunao municipal government for support of the maintenance, food and proper care of the animal. However, the allocated budget is not enough to cover the essentials.  For example, some of the enclosures badly need of repair. 

It is important for these species to successfully breed.  They are all endemic species and their population is decreasing drastically in the wild. Moreover, research should be done to determine their DNA composition to determine if they have crossed with other species in the past. Also research on their diet is essential and how to increase the chances of them reproducing successfully are needed.

As the population of these wildlife increase, they will also need wider, better designed spaces to avoid stress and ensure their health.  At the same, we need to find ways that the public can enjoy the opportunity of seeing these rare species and appreciate the value of conservation. 

WVSU-CAF and SGF are working together to find ways to effectively conserve our native species.

Watch the video below to see the wildlife inside the center.

Written by: Senior Science Officer, Norielle Diamante (See profile)

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