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Conservation breeding of the Philippine or Palawan Forest Turtle

Wildlife Reserves Singapore supports the Katala Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation (KIEBC), Antipuluan, Narra, Palawan, Philippines to improve the captive breeding facilities for the Philippine or Palawan Forest Turtle (Siebenrockiella leytensis). KIEBC holds the only range assurance colony of the Palawan forest turtle since 2007. This project proposes landscaping of the enclosures to provide increased access to areas of shade and seclusion; Research on the breeding behaviour of the species through regular and detailed observations of the animals; and continued efforts to determine an optimum captive diet for the species.

Top: Enclosure for an individual turtle
Bottom: Adult male Palawan Forest Turtle

Conservation needs of the Palawan Pangolin

Wildlife Reserves Singapore plays an active role in Pangolin Conservation. The Palawan Pangolin (Manis culionensis) is one of four Asian pangolins, all of which are in high demand for international trade of skin, scales and meat. The trade in members of the genus first became regulated under Appendix II of CITES in 1975, and was subsequently banned in 2000. Illegal trade is however still rampant. The Palawan endemic species is of especially high conservation concern due to its very restricted range. A first study conducted by Katala Foundation Inc. in 2008 indicates that the species is rare and hunted for subsistence. In addition, the species is poached for the food and traditional medicine markets of major cities in the Philippines. Illegal export to Malaysia is another growing problem. Increasing habitat destruction in the form of logging and slash and burn farming practices cause another problem. The combination of both, collection and habitat destruction is believed to pose serious threats to the species considering its restricted range.

In a workshop on trade and conservation of the pangolins native to Asia held at WRS in July 2008, the very limited information on the biology and ecology of pangolins and therewith the lack of knowledge on how to survey population sizes and trends in the wild was identified as a major research gap. The current study, which is funded by WRS, interviewed 165 hunters / farmers from 16 municipalities in the Province of Palawan on observations of pangolins. They named secondary lowland forest, primary lowland forest and agricultural ecosystems as the habitats where pangolins are most commonly seen. They explained that the Palawan Pangolin can be seen in the canopy as well as on the ground where it sleeps in tree hollows or burrows respectively. This has helped identify a methodology for the detailed survey of pangolins in this region. An initial population survey covering around 200 ha has been conducted subsequently and the population density of pangolins for that study site has been estimated. This project is ongoing with WRS support and the results will be used in the development of conservation measures for the species. It is expected that the results of this study will contribute to the evidence needed to increase the Palawan Pangolin’s IUCN status from “near threatened” to “vulnerable”.

Top: Enumerator practicing the survey questionnaire.
Bottom: Reconnaissance survey with local hunter and his dog to locate pangolin den.

Improvement of Rescue Procedures and Exhibit of Philippine Cockatoos in the Katala Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation

Wildlife Reserves Singapore supports the Katala Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation (KIEBC) for their work on conservation actions on the Philippine Cockatoo. The Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) was originally found on all major and hundreds of smaller islands within the Philippine archipelago. Mainly due to poaching and loss of lowland habitat, populations collapsed by the end of last century, which justified a listing as “Critically Endangered”.

Since 1998, members of the Katala Foundation, implement dedicated projects for the conservation of this species in the framework of the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme. Two major programme strategies are to restore still viable wild cockatoo populations and recreate subpopulations within the species historical range. The ex-situ component takes place in the Katala Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation (KIEBC) in Narra, Palawan, and includes rescue of cockatoos, as well as captive management of birds for educational purposes and for those individuals which are unsuitable for release.

This project works to improved rescue procedures of Philippine Cockatoos to increase number of birds suitable for release or reintroduction. An increase in the survival rate of rescued cockatoo nestlings is expected and healthier stock will be available for future cockatoo reintroduction. The project is also working towards improving presentation of captive birds for a better understanding of conservation needs of the cockatoo and local pride among stakeholders.

Left: Cockatoo feeding on a legume
Right:Fledgling Cockatoos at KIEBC