Calauit Safari Park
|Location||Calauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines|
|Land area||3,700 hectares (9,100 acres)|
|No. of animals||1,870|
Calauit Safari Park is a wildlife sanctuary in the Philippines that was originally created in 1976 as a game reserve featuring large African mammals, translocated there under the orders of Ferdinand Marcos during his 21-year rule of the country.
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 first historically documented discussions regarding the Calauit Safari Park took place when Ferdinand Marcos approached David Anthony "Tony" Parkinson, 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. (UNCTAD V, the next session, would be held in Manila three years later, in 1979.)
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."
Rationalizations for translocation
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. However, the IUCN has no record of any such request. The movement of the animals so far from their natural range also goes against long-standing IUCN policies on wildlife translocation.
The Marcoses were eventually deposed in the mostly-peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution, the wildlife park soon became a symbol of the profligacy the Marcos family during their 21-years in power. 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.
Creation through Presidential Proclamation
On August 31, 1976, under Presidential Proclamation No. 1578, the island was declared a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary.
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.
Island clearing before translocating animals
Relocation of indigenous peoples
Before the park opened in 1977, an estimated 254 families, mostly members of Tagbanwa tribes, were evicted and relocated to Halsey Island, a former leper colony 40 kilometers away. The eviction of Taganwa families was done under stress and duress according to a United Nations report on human and indigenous rights.
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. However, because the Philippines was then under martial law, they were relocated to Halsey Island nonetheless.
Clearing of bamboo forest
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.
Translocation of animals
Between May 1976 and August 1977, 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.
The zebras in the park are Grevy's zebras are considered the most endangered of the world’s three surviving zebra species. Some of the giraffes seen on the same tour bore the purple marks of iodine that park staff use to treat cuts from the sharp spikes of some local plants. The park also is a haven for indigenous wildlife like the Calamian deer, named for the Calamian islands, the northernmost island cluster in Palawan province, a group that includes Busuanga. There were only 25 left on the island when the park started a conservation effort in 1981, capturing deer for breeding and protecting them once they were released back into the wild. Now there is a thriving herd of 1200. Some of the Filipino species are kept in pens, like the Palawan porcupines. Visitors are allowed to feed them, and apparently they have a passion for bananas.
1980s expansion to conserve indigenous species
Calauit officials expanded the project in the early 1980s to breed 10 endangered indigenous species, including the mouse deer, the world’s smallest hoofed animal, plus Calamian deer, bear cats, Palawan peacock pheasants, Hawksbill sea turtles and Philippine crocodiles.
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"
For decades since their eviction, local and indigenous families struggled to return to what the Tagbanwa's consider their ancestral lands. After the EDSA People Power in 1986 that ousted Marcos, the displaced settlers formed the "Balik Calauit Movement" to exert legal and political pressure to the government.
Some of the settlers tried to return to the Island but were driven away by post-Marcos officers. In June 1987, their efforts to return have finally succeeded after President Corazon Aquino ordered the return of the indigenous peoples of Calauit to their ancestral lands.
In 2010, the government of the Philippines recognized the Tabanwa'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.
Transfer of administration to provincial government
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. It has become an eco-tourism attraction.
2010s poaching incidents
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In August 2015, three zebras were reportedly killed, two of them from gunshot wounds. Park employees recounted giraffes dying of wooden spears sticking out of their stomachs. The park’s water system was also tapped by the community, which has already established a school in the area. The authorities are having difficult tracking the animals and the activities of the local people due to the lack of facilities, funding, and equipment.
With the absence of official records, however, available online data are a bit confusing as to the actual population of African and Philippine wildlife that are presently roaming in the island. In the census of 2005, the park had 480 African animals and about 1,390 Philippine animals. But AFP reported in 2011 that there were just over 100 African animals that roamed the island. In 2013, however, visitors’ accounts indicate about 880, with 23 giraffes, 38 zebras, and around 1,000 Calamian deers.
By Apr 28, 2016, the authorities have arrested two people in the midst of the park for 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.
The Palawan government reached out to settle the disputes between the locals and the authorities in the park. Before the end of President Noynoy Aquino ended, a resolution was forged that halted the hunting of animals in the area.
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The Calauit island safari park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Philippines. The climate in the Philippines almost similar to that of Kenya and because of that the animals have flourished 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 is naturally born on the island
- Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi) - The largest extant species of Zebra. 15 Zebras have been brought and the population of zebra have spread throughout the park. The Grevy's zebra itself is the most endangered of the two zebra subspecies. In 2016, a total of 34 zebra's were thriving in the park and their populations are predicted to spread out due to the lack of natural predators.
Former animals in the park:
Below are the former introduced animal in the park and have died out due to territorial disputes and a 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 but they prefer to distance themselves from the tourist. Among the eland, the waterbuck is one of the two species of antelopes that remained in the park till late 2015 and are said to be spotted through to the bushes. In late 2016, the numbers of waterbucks in the park have greatly diminished through the following months and are 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 have flourished throughout the park though it is difficult to keep track of their numbers as some of the locals have stated that the creature is shy and is seldom to be seen. In early 2013, 23 elands have been tracked by the workers proving that the species itself have acclimated in the island. However, in 2016, Their numbers declined due to habitat loss and possible poaching. it was unknown if there are any elands left in the park. But the local guides stated that the Eland was presumed extinct as the last time the eland was spotted was somewhere in late 2016.
- Impala (Aepyceros melampus) - Impala's are among the indigenous animals that are introduced to the park in 1977 there were 18 impalas at that time but they species have a problem adopting to the new climate and have proven to be extinct in the 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. The In 1977, A total of 10 Topis was brought in the park. They are fast runners and are often shy of tourist they came across. However, the Topis died out after years of observation and was declared extinct in the park by 1999.
- Bushbuck (Tragelaphus sylvaticus) - is a widespread species of antelope in Sub-Saharan Africa.12 bushbucks was sent by the kenyan government in the park and they occupied the forest area of the park near the bushes. The workers in the park noticed that the bushbuck population decreased throughout the years due to territorial disputes among the other antelopes. The parks authorities searched the remaining animals that have decreased in numbers but were unsuccessful. bushbucks was declared extinct in 1999 among the four antelope species that are 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 thought to decline in 1980's. 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 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 is declared critically endangered in 1981 due to deforestation, over hunting and habitat loss. Only 25 calamian deer's are left when the park started conservation effort. The conservation itself went successful and their numbers have flourished in the park. In 2016, their population have reached 1200-1300 and is now been declared 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 that are present outside the park. Due to their status as vulnerable the rangers are having a big difficulty tracking their numbers. Several wild pigs have been stated to roam the park though it is rare as wild pigs fled to the forest in the morning.
- Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) - A critically endangered freshwater crocodile endemic to the Philippines. There are originally 5 fresh water crocodiles in the park at 2005 but one died of natural cause. As of today, there are currently 4 freshwater crocodiles in the conservation center though an effort to breed this critically endangered reptilian is been planned in the near future. In late 2015, one of the female freshwater crocodiles have laid few dozens of eggs and have hatched in the early 2016. Currently the crocodile hatchlings are put into a separated pond to prevent other male crocodiles from harming them.
- 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 are 1 Binturong that have been 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.
In May 2017, The authorities begin to plan for adding new attractions to the park to increase their budget for tourism. To generate income and continue promoting the tourism value of Calauit Safari Park, Provincial Agriculturist Dr. Romeo Cabungcal said they are planning to add attractions in the popular animal reserve.
The park management plans to increase entrepreneurial activities such as adding camp sites, accommodations, and more space to explore. Provincial administrator Atty. Joshua Bolusa clarified, nonetheless, that these new attractions will go through the necessary process and all stakeholders, including Indigenous People groups, will be consulted.
Collaboration with the local government of Busuanga and the communities in the area will also be initiated, he added.
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