Bristol Zoo Project HomeBristol Zoo Project Home

Leading the campaign to protect and conserve threatened species in the Philippines

Posted on: 7 May, 2024

Conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society are launching the final stage of a three-year campaign in the Philippines to promote the importance of conserving threatened native species.

The team has established a programme of community engagement activities which aim to promote the importance of protecting the local environment and its wildlife. Events include forest clubs, lectures, arts and craft workshops, open mic sessions and basketball tournaments.

The Philippines is a global hotspot of endemic biodiversity, including threatened species, such as Visayan warty pigs, Negros bleeding-heart doves, Visayan tarictic hornbills, and Visayan spotted deer. In the Northwest Panay Peninsula, illegal hunting is a major threat to biodiversity, but little is known about the drivers of this activity.

Since 2022, teams from Bristol Zoological Society and in-country partner and local NGO PhilinCon (Philippine Initiative for Conservation of Environment and the People), have been investigating the motivations, scale, and demand for hunting in the area.

There are thought to be only 200 Critically Endangered Visayan warty pig left in the wild, with the species being lost in 95% of its original former range and now existing only in small, fragmented populations. Human threats, including habitat destruction, persecution, and intensive hunting for meat, continue to reduce numbers of Visayan warty pigs, as well as stop their potential to maintain current population sizes and grow in number.

Part of a larger three-year project, with funding from the UK government’s Darwin Initiative, the main aim of this final stage of the campaign is to encourage local communities to be proud of and protect wildlife in their area, raise awareness of conservation among the wider population, and help produce environmental champions.

The project was initially split into three parts; carrying out biodiversity surveys in the national park in Panay, looking for signs of warty pigs and any illegal behaviours; working with local communities around the protected area to diversify livelihoods, implementing several livelihood projects; and monitoring local markets for wild pig meat or any trinkets made from bones.

Results from the last two years have found that wild meat isn’t being traded at markets, but more so hunted for general consumption within local communities. They also showed that the Visayan warty pig is the most recognised of the local species, but least liked due to its perceived habits of crop foraging with its meat being one of the preferred to eat by communities.

Using the information collected, conservationists from the Society are working with eight local communities to build effective alternative or supplemental livelihood programmes that promote the recovery of threatened species and alleviate poverty. These include shrimp, chicken, and organic vegetable farming, as well as a community rice retail store.

Going into the project’s final year, the team will follow a similar model to the Rare Pride Campaign, which combines conservation education and social marketing to promote behavioural change.

Numbers of Critically Endangered Negros bleeding-heart doves also continue to decrease and there are thought to be fewer than 250 left in the wild. The Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park (NWPPNP), which the Society is working to protect, is the last stronghold for this species.

Meanwhile, Endangered Visayan spotted deer are struggling to maintain numbers above 700 but are likely eradicated in the NWPPNP due to hunting, which emphasises the importance of stopping illegal activities before it is too late.

Bristol Zoological Society have been working alongside PhilinCon and with a number of other partners to ensure the success of the project and as it enters its final year, the team is confident it will be a challenging yet fulfilling final chapter.

Want to help us save wildlife?

Become a member today for a year of wild adventure, and help protect the animals and habitats you love by supporting our conservation charity.