By Rose de la Cruz I Published: July 20, 2020
Not only were humans the only ones were disturbed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The consequent lockdown also endangered the livelihood and movement of rangers that protect the remaining 480 of the world’s 600 tamaraws, the rarest and most endangered specie found in Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) in the Mindoro island provinces.
To ensure that the 24 rangers and wardens and 32 (of 35) Taw’buid Mangyan wardens patrolling MIBNP to deter tamaraw hunters and poachers, continue doing so, the Philippines and 35 other countries officially launched #TogetherforTamaraws, an online fundraising campaign to help conserve the frontliners affected by the pandemic.
For a Good Cause
The fundraising is led by the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) project in the Philippines with the support of UN Development Program and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through its Mimaropa office and the Biodiversity Management Bureau of DENR.
Mimaropa is composed of the Region 4 island provinces of the two Mindoros, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.
Sadly, one of 24 tamaraw conservation program (TCP) rangers and 24 of the 32 Mangyan wardens patrolling the area lost their jobs because of the community quarantine measures that caused MINBP’s closure.
The tamaraw, also known as Mindoro dwarf buffalo (s. Bubalus mindorensis) is a small hoofed mammal belonging to the family Bovidae that is endemic to the island provinces of Mindoro.
The wardens also serve as tourist guides and porters for tourism and research expeditions.
Now, only 23 TCP rangers and three MIBNP wardens are patrolling a core area of 2,500 hectares inside the 106,655-hectare MIBNP, which hosts at least 480 of the world’s 600 remaining tamaraw.
The worldwide campaign would afford the tamaraw frontliners the critically- needed field allowances and food so they can continue protecting the tamaraw and other endangered flora and fauna of Mindoro.
“We launched this global campaign because we saw local communities and rangers, the frontliners of conservation, being strongly impacted by the loss of income from tourism,” explains Onno van den Heuvel, BIOFIN global project manager.
“Exotic places like the Iglit-Baco mountain range might seem distant to most people, but they must be conserved. Rangers and wardens need and deserve our support to keep doing good conservation work.”
BIOFIN hopes to raise approximately P1.149 million to help secure allowances and provisions for tamaraw frontliners until the end of the year.
Readers could give gifts at any amount online through bit.ly/TogetherforTamaraws.
For the Endangered Species
“When our grandparents were still alive, forests were plentiful and full of wildlife.
Over 70 percent of the country was covered in pristine forest, but only a million hectares are now left,” says Titon Mitra, UNDP Philippines resident representative.
“We’re losing 200 football fields of forest cover daily and in this fix is the tamaraw, of which only about 600 are left. I hope each of you can make a small contribution.
“In doing so, you play a big part in securing the livelihoods of our tamaraw wardens and rangers who are doing such an exceptional job in protecting this critically-endangered species.”
Since its inception in 2012, BIOFIN has worked with both the public and private sectors across 36 countries to enhance protection for the world’s top biodiversity hotspots by helping secure funds to implement sound biodiversity programs.
The rangers and wardens who were laid-off are members of the Taw’buid, Iraya and Buid tribes, three of Mindoro’s eight Mangyan tribes.
They are enforcers and educators for their fellow tribesfolk about the significance of conserving the tamaraw, a traditionally- hunted but highly- revered animal.
“For years, our rangers have been operating without proper patrol gear and equipment. Salaries are often delayed and no one has health or social security benefits,” explains TCP head Neil Anthony Del Mundo.
Both MIBNP and TCP rangers regularly ward off poachers, dismantle spring-loaded balatik and deadly silo snare traps and discourage the park’s indigenous tribesfolk from engaging in destructive slash-and-burn farming.
Spirit of Bayanihan
“This pandemic should bring forth empathy and not drive us to apathy,” says Occidental Mindoro Congresswoman Josephine Ramirez-Sato, who delivered the first tranche of relief gifts to the rangers today. “Let us all help our rangers and wardens in saving the tamaraw.
“This is the spirit of Bayanihan. Even as we wear masks, stand three feet apart and stay safe in the comfort of our homes, we can and must do our part. Our contributions will go a long way and will make a difference. Bayanihan is possible amidst one of the greatest challenges of our time. Let us show our families, our communities and the world that we will be together for the tamaraws.”
Though they need our help, the rangers and wardens have decided to voluntarily continue patrolling despite the dangers. “Lockdown or not, we’ll put our own health on the line to protect our tamaraws,” vows Ed Bata, senior TCP ranger.