Conservation education and raising awareness about the plight of threatened species take center stage today as the country joins the rest of the world in celebrating the first ever World Wildlife Day (WWD).
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), had lined up several activities at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City for the local celebration of WWD.
“This celebration is to remind us that wildlife is an important support system for our existence, and that they are not meant for us to enjoy by extraction [from their habitat], but they are there to co-exist with us,” said DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.
Paje noted that the Philippines had been earning praise from the international community for efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade, such as when it destroyed the country’s stock of confiscated elephant tusks in June last year.
But at the same time, he urged Filipinos not to rest on their laurels, as “a hundred per cent success in enforcement also means a hundred per cent in failure, because it means illegal extraction does not stop.”
“It is our thinking we must change. We should not treat any wildlife as our property, but part of God’s creation, too,” he said.
The Philippines’ participation in the global celebration was part of the country’s commitment to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement adopted in 1973 to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species.
Paje had earlier said that as a signatory to CITES, the celebration would be an opportunity to further raise public awareness on the important role of regulating the trade, whether locally or internationally, of wildlife species and ensuring that their survival is not threatened.
During its 68th session on Dec. 20, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim March 3 – the day of the adoption of CITES – as WWD to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora.
One of the highlights of the local celebration was the groundbreaking of the site for a sculpture that would be a monument to the country’s part in the battle against illegal ivory trade. Part of the sculpture would be constructed using incinerated ashes of tusks crushed by the DENR in June last year.
In February, the Philippines was represented in the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, where the country reaffirmed its commitment to end illegal trading of threatened wildlife such as elephants and tigers in Africa and Asia. The conference was initiated by no less than Britain’s Prince Charles and Prince William.
Other activities to celebrate WWD included the launching of an operations manual for administrators of wildlife rescue centers; signing of memoranda of agreement with the Our Lady of Fatima University and the Nueva Vizcaya State University on allowing students to hold internship at Wildlife Rescue Center at the NAPWC; and the opening of a wildlife exhibit.
DENR field offices have also scheduled the simultaneous release of marine turtles in identified coastal areas of Bataan, Zambales, La Union and Batangas.
There will also be a symbolic release of the Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica) at the Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro later this month. #