Calauit Safari Park

Coordinates: 12°18′N 119°54′E / 12.300°N 119.900°E / 12.300; 119.900
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Calauit Safari Park
12°18′N 119°54′E / 12.300°N 119.900°E / 12.300; 119.900
Date opened1976
LocationCalauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines
Land area3,700 hectares (9,100 acres)
No. of animals1,870

Calauit Safari Park is a wildlife sanctuary in the Philippines which was originally created in 1976 as a game reserve featuring large African mammals, translocated there under the orders of the President Ferdinand Marcos during his 21-year rule of the country.[1][2]

Today, populations of Reticulated giraffe and Grévy's zebra still roam the park, while the populations of Waterbuck, Common Eland, Impala, Topi, Bushbuck, and Thomson’s gazelle have died out. But an expansion of the program initiated by local officials in the 1980s to conserve indigenous species has resulted in the successful conservation of Calamian deer, Palawan bearded pig, Philippine crocodile, Philippine porcupine, Binturong, and Philippine mouse-deer.

The park is located in Calauit Island, a 3,700-hectare (9,100-acre) island in the Calamian Islands chain that lies off the coast of Palawan in the Mimaropa region of the Philippines.



The first historically documented discussions regarding the Calauit Safari Park took place when Ferdinand Marcos approached David Anthony "Tony" Parkinson,[3] an Englishman whose business venture at the time was the translocation of African animals into zoos, on the sidelines of the Fourth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD IV) held in May 1976 in Nairobi, Kenya.[4] (UNCTAD V, the next session, would be held in Manila three years later, in 1979.[5])

Marcos approached Parkinson with a "briefcase-full" of money and hired him to collect large African mammals that would be brought to an island in the Philippines to populate a new "Safari park."[4]

Rationalizations for translocation[edit]

Marcos' explanation for why he wanted to create the park was that his administration was responding to a Kenyan government request to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for help in conserving endangered animal species.[4] However, the IUCN has no record of any such request.[4] The movement of the animals so far from their natural range also goes against long-standing IUCN policies on wildlife translocation.[4]

The Marcoses were eventually deposed in the mostly-peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution, the wildlife park soon became a symbol of the profligacy of the Marcos family during their 21-years in power.[6] It became colloquially known as “Bongbong’s Safari Park” because Marcos' son, Bongbong Marcos, was known for having flown to the island by helicopter to hunt native wild boar.[6]

Creation through Presidential Proclamation[edit]

On August 31, 1976, under Presidential Proclamation No. 1578, the island was declared a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary.[7]

The secluded Calauit Island was considered the ideal location due to its size, terrain, and vegetation. A private, non-profit organization, Conservation and Resource Management Foundation (CRMF), was placed in charge of the forest preserve and wildlife sanctuary.[8]

Island clearing before translocating animals[edit]

Relocation of Indigenous peoples[edit]

Before the park opened in 1977, an estimated 254 families,[4][9] mostly members of Tagbanwa tribes, were evicted and relocated to Halsey Island, a former leper colony[10] 40 kilometers away. The eviction of Tagbanwa families was done under stress and duress according to a United Nations report on human and Indigenous rights.[11]

These Indigenous people campaigned against the relocation after realizing that Halsey Island was stony and had no capability to sustain agriculture. The resettled families often had to go hungry.[citation needed] However, because the Philippines was under martial law then, they were relocated to Halsey Island nonetheless.[12]

Clearing of bamboo forest[edit]

While the island of Calauit was selected for the game resort because it had a climate very similar to Kenya, it differed from the imported animals' original environment because it had bamboo forests instead of savannahs. These were cleared by tractors before the arrival of the animals.[2]

Translocation of animals[edit]

Calauit Safari Park

Between May 1976 and August 1977,[4] 104 feral African animals from eight species were brought to the island: 12 bushbucks, 11 elands, 11 gazelles, 15 giraffes, 18 impalas, 12 waterbucks, 10 topis, and 15 zebras. The animals were transported to the island by the ship MV Salvador on March 4, 1977. Without natural predators, the population of animals grew to 201 after five years, with 143 animals born on Calauit itself. The giraffe and zebra populations in particular were thriving.[citation needed]


1980s expansion to conserve indigenous species[edit]

As of 2005, local animals on the island included 1,200 Calamian deer, 22 mouse-deer, 4 Palawan bearcats, 5 crocodiles, and 2 wild pigs. The sanctuary has also been home to Palawan peacock pheasants, porcupines, sea eagles, wildcats, scaly anteaters, and pythons. There have also been programs to rejuvenate and protect the island's marine resources, forests, and mangroves. In the island’s waters live dugongs, sea turtles, and giant clams. Calauit’s coral reefs, once badly damaged by invasive fishing practices, have recovered and are now rich breeding grounds for fish and crustaceans.

The "Balik Calauit Movement"[edit]

For decades since their eviction, local and Indigenous families struggled to return to what the Tagbanwa's consider their ancestral lands.[11][12][14]

In 2010, the government of the Philippines recognized the Tagbanwa's rights to their ancestral lands. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples on March 3, 2010, turned over to the Tagbanwa community a property title for Calauit Island and 50,000 hectares of surrounding ancestral waters.[15]

Transfer of administration to provincial government[edit]

Through Executive Order No. 722 ratified on December 12, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo transferred the administration of the sanctuary from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development to the Provincial Government of Palawan. Its name was then changed to Calauit Safari Park.[16] It has become an eco-tourism attraction.[17]

2010s poaching incidents[edit]

By April 28, 2016, the authorities have arrested two people in the midst of the park on the suspicion of poaching. The claim was later proven to be true when the authorities inspected 2 shotguns, 3 dynamites, an animal skinning rack, 5 dried animal skin and 5 skeletal remains of an endangered Calamian deer.[18]

The Palawan government reached out to settle the disputes between the locals and the authorities in the park. Before the term of President Noynoy Aquino ended, a resolution was forged which halted the hunting of animals in the area.[citation needed]


Zebras at Calauit Safari Park

The Calauit island safari park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Philippines. The climate in the Philippines being almost similar to that of Kenya allowed some of the animals to flourish in the park.

List of animals present in the Park:

  • Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa reticulata) - also known as the Somali giraffe, is a subspecies of giraffe native to the Horn of Africa. It lives in Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. 15 giraffes have been transported in a vessel named M/V Salvador in March 1977. The numbers of giraffes have flourished in the park due to the lack of natural predators. As of 2016, a total of 27 Giraffes are present in the park some of which were naturally born on the island.
  • Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi) - The largest extant species of Zebra. 15 Zebras were brought and the population of zebra has since spread throughout the park. The Grevy's zebra itself is the most endangered of the two zebra subspecies. In 2016, a total of 34 zebras were thriving in the park and their populations are predicted to have spread out due to the lack of natural predators.

Former animals in the park:

Below are the former introduced animals in the park which have died out due to territorial disputes and the threat of illegal hunting.

  • Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) - is a large antelope found widely in sub-Saharan Africa. About 12 Waterbucks arrived in the park in 1977. These elusive creatures can be seen rarely in the park. They are docile animals and prefer to distance themselves from tourists. Among the eland, the waterbuck is one of the two species of antelopes that remained in the park until late 2015 and were said to be spotted through bushes. In late 2016, the numbers of waterbucks in the park have greatly diminished and were presumed extinct in early 2017.
  • Common eland (Taurotragus oryx) - is one of the largest species of antelope found in the plains of Africa, 11 Elands were transported together with the other African animal species brought from Kenya in 1977. The Elands flourished throughout the park though it was difficult to keep track of their numbers as some of the locals have stated that the creatures were shy and seldom seen. In early 2013, 23 elands were tracked by the workers proving that the species acclimated in the island. However, in 2016, their numbers declined due to habitat loss and possible poaching. It is unknown if there are any elands left in the park. The local guides have stated that the Eland is presumed extinct in the island since the last time an eland was spotted was in late 2016.
  • Impala (Aepyceros melampus) - Impalas are among the indigenous animals which were introduced to the park in 1977. There were 18 impalas at that time but the species had a problem adapting to the new climate and were proven to be extinct in 1999.
  • Topi (Damaliscus lunatus jimela) is a highly social and fast antelope subspecies of the common tsessebe, a species that belongs to the genus Damaliscus. In 1977, a total of 10 Topis were brought in the park. They are fast runners and were often reclusive of tourists they came across. However, the Topis died out after years of observation and were declared extinct in the park by 1999.
  • Bushbuck (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) - is a widespread species of antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa. 12 bushbucks were sent by the Kenyan government in the park and they occupied the forest area of the park near bushes. The workers in the park noticed that the bushbuck population decreased throughout the years due to territorial disputes among other antelopes. The park authorities searched for any remaining animals which have decreased in numbers but were unsuccessful. Bushbucks were declared extinct in 1999 among the four antelope species which were introduced in the park.
  • Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) - is one of the best-known gazelles. It is named after explorer Joseph Thomson and is sometimes referred to as a "tommie". 11 gazelles were delivered in the park among the other 7 animal species that are endemic to the African plains. Their population once thrived in the park within five years but have been thought to decline in the 1980s. The authorities in the park have failed to locate any individuals by 1999 and the species was declared extinct in the park by the Palawan local government.

Local animals in the park

  • Calamian deer (Hyelaphus calamianensis) - is an endangered species of the deer endemic to the Calamian Islands of the Palawan province in the Philippines. The Calamian deer was declared critically endangered in 1981 due to deforestation, over hunting and habitat loss. Only 25 calamian deer were left when the park started conservation efforts. The conservation itself went successful and their numbers have since flourished in the park. In 2016, their population reached 1200-1300 and has been upgraded from critically endangered to an endangered species by IUCN.
  • Palawan bearded pig (Sus ahoenobarbus) - It is one of 4 wild pigs endemic to the Philippines and are considered vulnerable under the Philippine Red List of Threatened Wildlife. Several wild pigs are kept in the park's conservation center though there are a few wild pigs present outside the park. Due to their status as vulnerable, the rangers are having difficulty tracking their numbers.
  • Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) - A critically endangered freshwater crocodile endemic to the Philippines. There were originally five freshwater crocodiles in the park in 2005 but one died of natural causes. As of today[when?], there are currently four freshwater crocodiles in the conservation center though an effort to breed this critically endangered reptilian is planned in the near future. In late 2015, one of the female freshwater crocodiles laid a few dozen eggs which hatched in early 2016. Currently the crocodile hatchlings are nursed in a separated pond to prevent any harm.
  • Philippine porcupine (Hystrix pumila) is a species of rodent in the family Hystricidae (Old World porcupines) endemic to the island of Palawan in the Philippines. It is known locally as durian or landak. The IUCN declared this species as vulnerable and currently 3 porcupines have been kept in the center in an effort to conserve different endangered species in the Philippines.
  • Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as bearcat, is a viverrid native to South and Southeast Asia. It is uncommon in much of its range, and has been assessed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because of a declining population trend that is estimated at more than 30% over the last three decades. There is 1 Binturong being kept in the park. Only few of this species can be spotted in the forest of Palawan and may have dwindled in numbers due to deforestation and habitat loss.
  • Philippine mouse-deer (Tragulus nigricans) - also known as the Balabac chevrotain or pilandok (in Filipino), is a small, nocturnal ruminant, which is endemic to Balabac and nearby smaller islands (Bugsuc and Ramos) southwest of Palawan in the Philippines. as of 2005, 22 mousedeers are kept in the park's sanctuary.

Future projects[edit]

In May 2017, authorities began plans to add new attractions to the park to increase their budget for tourism.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Javier, Kristian. "31 years of amnesia: A family affair". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  2. ^ a b "Calauit Island: From Eden to paradise lost". The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Agence France-Presse. 2011-11-15. Archived from the original on 2011-11-18. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  3. ^ Yousry-Jouve, Lily; Grele, Dominique (2001). 100 resorts in the Philippines : places with a heart. Mandaluyong, Metro Manila: Asiatype. ISBN 9719171979. OCLC 48642313.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "How a Patch of the Kenyan Wild Ended up in Philippines - Owaahh". Owaahh. 2014-08-21. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  5. ^ "UNCTAD Conferences". Archived from the original on 2012-06-26. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  6. ^ a b Drogin, Bob (1989-11-24). "'Animal Island' Fights to Survive : Philippines: A wildlife sanctuary is under attack by squatters who lay claim to the land. The dispute is a strange legacy of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2019-11-12. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  7. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 1578, s. 1976 (31 August 1976), Declaring as a Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary a certain parcel of land of the public domain embraced and situated in the island of Calauit, municipality of New Busuanga, island of Busuanga, province of Palawan.
  8. ^ "Calauit Island History". Archived from the original on 2013-09-08. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
  9. ^ "At Philippine Safari Park, Serengeti on South China Sea". 2013-12-08. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  10. ^ "Daily Star Opinions: Conservation Matters". Archived from the original on 2017-11-16. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  11. ^ a b Stavenhagen, Rodolfo (5 March 2003). "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people". United Nations Digital Library. Archived from the original on 2021-08-09. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b "African wildlife thrives in Palawan - The Manila Times Online". 4 January 2016. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  13. ^ "A slice of". Archived from the original on 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
  14. ^ Eaton, Peter (2013). Land Tenure, Conservation and Development in Southeast Asia. Routledge. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-134-41101-6. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Tagbanuas banished by Marcos reclaim Calauit, their ancestral domain". March 6, 2010. Archived from the original on 2020-07-12. Retrieved 2020-05-11 – via PressReader.
  16. ^ "Executive Order No. 772, s. 2008". Official gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. Archived from the original on 29 September 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Palawan Eco-Tourism Attractions". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
  18. ^ "Illegal hunter sa Calauit Safari Park hinuli - Palawan News". Palawan News. 2016-04-28. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  19. ^ "Calauit Safari Park to add attractions - Palawan News". Palawan News. May 14, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2017.