National Parks and protected areas in the Philippines

In order to preserve its national heritage, the Philippine government implemented a combined act of proper education and law enforcement to deal with the depressing issue on country’s devastated natural resources. The government has established conservation programs for the few endangered and rare species left in our receding rainforests. Among these species are the Tamaraws (dwarf species of water buffalo), Philippine eagles, marine turtles, Philippine crocodiles, sea cow, and the Philippine deer. This consciousness spread among people who realized the need to conserve our natural resources. Log exportation has been prohibited, though not completely, at least a total log ban on areas such as Palawan, where most rare species inhabit, has been fully enforced. Below is a list of established national parks to shelter plant, animals and marine species of the Philippines:

Mt. Isarog, located in Camarines Sur, Bicol- is the region’s second highest volcano at about 1,966 meter above sea level. It is a dormant volcano and home to some of the rarest animal and plant species in the country. A scattered community of Agta tribe, one of the country’s earliest settlers, have been seen residing the interiors of the mountain.

Mt. Iglit-Baco, Mindoro. This is where the endangered Tamaraw can be found- the wild dwarf species of water buffalo. Due to massive and destructive farming in the area, reduction of grasslands resulted to loss of habitat of these animals and as well the Mangyan tribe- a cultural minority group originated in Mindoro.

Palanan Wilderness, Northeast Luzon– encompasses 200,000 ha. of prime virgin forest, revealing 10% of the country’s protected wooodlands. The area shelters more than 200 species of birds including a small gathering of the Philippine Eagle. Along the coast of Sierra Madre, a small community of the Dumagat tribe resides with logging as their prime source of livelihood. Another group settling in the area are negritos.

Mount Guiting-Guiting, Romblon– Because of its isolated location, this impressive mountain has protected some of the rarest species of trees and wild animals, such as fruit bats, large monkeys and a hundred species of birds.

El Nido Marine Reserve, Palawan– A popular tourist destination, this is where the towering limestone cliffs and sugar-like white sand beaches can be found.

Coron Island, Palawan– the Island is covered with unexplored rainforests, stunning cliffs and secluded lakes. Aside from its rich wildlife and marine residents, Tagbanua tribe, Coron’s indigenous community, as well inhabits mostly the interiors of its mountains.

Mt. Pulag, Mountain Province– because of its easy treks and grass carpeted slopes, this mountain is a known trekking destination for mountaineering groups. Mt Pulag, or sometimes called Mt Pulog, is the second highest peak in the Philippines, where the borders of the provinces of Ifugao, Benguet and Nueva Viscaya meet at its summits. The mountain is a natural habitat of endemic species of wild plants, such as dwarf bamboo and the benguet pine, and wild species of birds, long haired fruit bats, Philippine deer and giant bushy tailed cloud rats.

Mt. Mayon, Albay– possessing a majestic height and the most perfect cone, this volcano is also known for its frequent eruptions.

Bulusan Volcano, Sorsogon– a sleeping volcano and home to some of the most spectacular animals and plant species in the country.

Turtle Islands– is a group of small islands named Boan, Lihiman, Langaan, Great Bakkungan, Taganak and Baguan. They are all located at the southwestern tip of the Philippines in the mid of Palawan and Tawi-tawi mainland, and northeast of Sabah Malaysia. The islands are known primarily as a nesting ground for sea turtles (Chelonia mydas and Erethmochelys Imbricata). Monitor lizards as well have been seen residing in the area.

Around Great Bakkungan Island, the Malay Box Turtle which was never seen at other islands has been observed visiting its shores. Presence of sea snakes and terrestial snakes have also been recorded in the island.

Twin Lakes, Southern Negros– the Twin Lakes (Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao) are two deep crater lakes separated by a narrow ridge and surrounded by lush selections of flora and fauna. A scenic spot to visit, paddling through the lakes and fishing for dinner with friends is a remarkable experience. The aerial view of the lakes can be best viewed by trekking the slopes of the surrounding ridges.

Mount Kanlaon, Negros– located in the central highlands of Negros, this mountain is home to various species of ferns, lichens, and orchids. It is also inhabited by numerous species of tropical birds. Among them are hundred endemic species of bleeding heart pigeons and the nearing to extinction, Negros Fruit Doves. Others are Barblers and Warblers, Doves, Bulbuls, Flycatchers and woodpeckers.

Mt. Apo National Park, Mindanao– is a dormant volcano and the Philippines highest mountain (2954m). As a known habitat of the national bird, Philippine Eagle, its forested slopes were protected for the conservation of this endangered bird.

Mount Arayat, Central Luzon– is a sleeping volcano and a mountain that is sheltering a variety of wild animals. Right at its foot is a picnic site surrounded by waterfalls and numerous species of plant life.

Sohoton Natural Bridge, Samar– located at the southern tip of Samar Island, the Sohoton National Park features a natural stone bridge and was discovered protecting caves and rainforests. Recently considered a tourists attraction, Sohoton District in the municipality of Basey, Samar preserved this naturally-carved structure made of limestone pillars straddling between two mountains, and where underneath of it is a river that flows towards a waterfalls. Inside the Sohoton Cave awaits a dazzling sight of rock formations uniquely designed by nature alone.

Apo Reef, Occidental Mindoro– can be reached easily from west of Sablayan and from the northeast of Calamian group in Palawan, this proclaimed marine and national park possess a wide array of habitats which are valuable for scientific studies and a perfect destination for environmental tours. Numerous species of fauna and flora are discovered inhabiting the sandy beaches, beach forests, coral reefs, algae flat, mangroves and sea grass of the reef. The reef’s underwater terrain boasts for its unique coral walls, caves and drop offs. They are home to some species of mantas, sharks, school of jacks and snappers, and groups of tropical aquarium fishes and hundreds more marine species. The island as well serves as a nesting ground for numerous species of migratory and resident breeder birds, and a rich territory of endemic wildlife and plant life species such as Nicobar pigeons, sea turtles, sea grass and algae.

Lake Mahagnao, Leyte– Because of its abundant wildlife, Lake Mahagnao is a popular destination for camping and environmental tours. The pristine lake is surrounded by refreshing sights of Ferns, lilies, aerial plants, tropical shrubs, and hundreds of birds residing throughout the primary forest encompassing the entire mountains of Leyte. Trekkers enjoy the river system coming through Mahagnao that goes down to a stunning falls. If planning to stay overnight, a resthut at the shore of the lake is big enough to accomodate 30 to 40 campers.

Lake Danao, Western Leyte– a hunter’s paradise nestling in the middle of thickly forested hills of Ormoc City, this 3 km long lake at an elevation of 1600 meters, is known to inhabit wild animals, including the giant eel.

St. Paul Subterranean, Palawan– is the longest underground river in the world that features cathedral-like caverns and domes, and stalactite and stalagmites that resembles with familiar images. It is located 81 km north of Puerto Princesa City which has precipitous mountains of mostly marbles and limestones. The entire surrounding, however, is covered with tropical rainforest. Declared as a national park in 1971, this pride of Puerto Princesa became a known destination for bird-watching. Some of Palawan’s endemic birds such as Palawan Pheasant Peacock and Philippine Cockatoo have been sought residing in the park.

Philippine Fauna

Carabao- Philippine water buffaloThe Philippines is known for its wide variety of wildlife. It is the only country on earth which has dwarf and pygmy species of many ecological families. There are about 220 species of mammals including the Carabaos- the native water buffalo highly recognized for its strength and endurance in plowing the fields. Goats, horses hogs, monkeys, dogs squirrels, lemurs, mice, pangolins (scaly anteaters) chevrotains (mouse deers) mongooses, civet cats, and red brown deer inhabit the whole archipelago But the Tamaraw, a smaller species of Carabao can only be found in Mindoro.

Birds in the Philippines of which most are migrants now have Philippine eagle been counted to 500 species. These are the jungle fowls, pigeons, peacocks, pheasants, doves, parrots, hornbills, kingfishers, sunbirds, tailorbirds, weaverbirds, herons and quails. Many unique species are present in Palawan including the Palawan Peacock Pheasants- a large colorful bird with remarkable feathers and long pointed tail feathers. The male of this species have a metallic blue head, long white eyebrows and large metallic blue or purple eye images on the tail. Pheasants originally came from Asia but can be found recently in many places of Europe and America. However, due to brutal exploitation of their assets and habitat, they are now threatened with extinction. Philippine hawk eagleThe most famous of the bird family is the Haribon or the Philippine Eagle. This rare and endangered monkey-eating eagle is now restricted to isolated areas of Mindanao and Sierra Madre for conservation. And about 56 unusual species of bats mainly of different kinds thrive in the dark caves of Philippines’ dense jungles.

The glaring speckle of marine life turns the Philippine waters into an incredible sight of over 500 species of hard and soft corrals and over 2000 varied species of fish. Some common species which are sold commercially are the tuna, mackerel, cuttlefish squid, shrimp, lobster and crabs. Whale sharks, the largest fish known to reach up to 20 meters in length that visit the waters of Sorsogon, and the gathering of Manta rays in Ticao Island near Masbate contributed to the assortment of marine creatures in the country. fish_1.jpgTheir unreasonable exploitation in the past years responded to a delicate process of change and thus being subjected to conservation plans. Contrary to their humongous size, Pandaka, the dwarf pygmy inhabiting the rivers of Malabon and the Tabios of Lake Buhi is also nearing extinction due to its improper commercialization. The Philippine marine turtles that inhabited the islands since hundreds of years are now stepping into endangered level. These are the green sea turtle, olive ridley, leatherback and hawksbill although loggerhead. Their high commercial value as souvenir items and accessories dramatically decreased their number.

Philippine rainforest snakeShells in the Philippines comprise over a thousand species including some very rare collector’s specimen and even poisonous ones. They range from the tiny Picidium to the giant Tridacna gigas to over a thousand species of land snails. Due to the strong demand of international market, and their massive commercial reproduction, the existence of the shell species has declined severely. One of these extravagantly sold shell crafts is the Capiz, which is used for home furnishing such as windows, lamps, and doors. Pearls are widely produced and cultivated in the lush islands of Mindanao. However, the considered largest pearl called “The Peal of Lao-Tze was found in Palawan by a local diver in 1934. It measures about 6.4 kg and 24 by 14 cm. Pearl cultivation is a source of livelihood in Davao, Sulu and southern Palawan, such magnificent but inexpensive jewel notably sums up the richness of the Philippine marine life. Philippine crocodile

There are about 25,000 varieties of insects in the islands. Butterflies alone have a wide array of assortment which is adored mainly for collection and spectacle. About 800 species of prominent butterflies inhabit the islands of Palawan, Mindanao and Sulu. One of which is the Papilio trojano, a kind found in Palawan. It is considered the largest of its kind with a normal wingspan of 18 centimeters.fauna9.1.jpg

In order to preserve the diminishing existence of some of the rarest animals found only in this country, necessary actions should be accomplished immediately. The ecosystem-rich islands of the Philippines may be deserted in the next century if they are not considered seriously.

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Philippine Flora

flora17._1.jpgThe Philippines’ rich volcanic soil, bright sunshine and enough rain account for the healthy growth of thousands of plant species in the archipelago. From about 3000 species of giant trees to thousands more species of mosses and lichens, Philippine forests comprise variety of plant life that not one of its neighbors has. Indonesia and Malaysia may have similar climate and natural environment that can sustain growth of tropical plants but some Australian types like Eucalyptus and Sino-Himalayan plants can only be found in this country.

The Bamboo, which has 54 different species thriving throughout the country, is a fast-growing timbered grass which can be transformed into lots of income-generating products such as music instruments, handicrafts, bags, lamps, furniture. It is a kind of plant that can also be used for essential purposes like building houses, buildings and fences.

The Coconut Palm is another interesting plant which can be utilized for similar usage. It is manufactured the same way as Bamboo but it grows mainly in the lowlands and has fruit that produces oil, vinegar and liquor. Narra, the proclaimed national tree of the Philippines is the source of hardwood and proven to have the highest quality for furniture making and home furnishing. Other hard wooden trees used for similar purposes are Mahogany, Anislag, Kamagong and hundreds more.
bamboo.1.0.jpgNipa Palm, the unofficial national tree of the country that thrives in the swampy areas near the sea is an essential material used for building the traditional Filipino house. Nowadays island resorts and some recreational places in the country patterned their designs after the uniqueness of Nipa Hut.

Another crop which is unnatural to the Philippine plant life is the Pili Nut. It is the fruit of an immense-growing tree that commonly thrives in the rich soil of Bicol provinces particularly Sorsogon. This delicious nutty fruit is harvested yearly from May to October for the production of candies, chocolates, jams and desserts. Durian, a fruit famous for its horrid smell but delightful taste is a native of the well-preserved mountains of Mindanao. And in the volcanic soil of Camiguin, Lanzones, a tasty fruit with its very distinct character, is the main pride and even the subject of the island’s colorful festival. Due to their rich red soil, the islands of Panay and Guimaras produce the sweetest tasting Mango in the country. Others can be also found in Zambales.

Sampaguita is the national flower but there are about 1000 species of orchids including the Waling-waling or commonly described as the queen of the Philippine orchids and nepenthes or the carnivorous pitcher plant.

Discovered by a German Taxonomist Heinrich Gustav Reicheinback in Mindanao in 1882, Waling-waling was sought as one of the largest species in the world, famous for its large and colorful kind. It grows on tree trunks in the rainforest of Davao, Sultan Kudarat and other parts of Mindanao, blooming only once a year between July and October. This flower since then earned a reputation as the most sought-after specie in the thick jungles of Mindanao. Thousands of colorful and attractive hybrids discoveries inspired by Reicheinback followed and resulted to bringing Philippine flowers a part of world’s multi-billion dollar orchid and cut flower industry. flora1.00.jpg

The insect-eating nepenthes or commonly called pitcher plant of Mindanao asserted to being more recognized. Pronounced ne-PEN-thayz, the name is derived from a magic potion which is said to make a person forget all suffering. This plant of 70 different kinds is commonly called pitcher plant. Nepenthes are tropical epiphytes (they live on other plants but are not parasitic), and they feed themselves with insects which they catch in their pitchers (water-filled funnels containing digestive enzymes). The characteristic ‘lids’ on the pitchers prevent rainwater from diluting the enzymes. It is common in the tropical soil of the Philippines, Northern Australia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

This richness of plant life in the Philippines has been estimated to thousands of different species. However, due to its irrational exploitation and usage, many of them decreased and disappeared radically in numbers. If illegal logging and deforestation will not be prevented, those remaining species might face the threat of extinction in the next century.