Three Endangered Animals Discovered in the Philippines
By MICHAEL A. BENGWAYAN
Baguio City, Philippines — Three new animals, two of which are new discoveries and one a rediscovered species after more than a hundred years, have been made in the Philippines
The two discoveries — a parrot and a mouse – live only on a small island in the country called Camiguin, a very small island known more for its sweet mangoes and currently threatened to destruction by eco-tourism.
The scientific name for the new parrot species is Loriculus camiguinensis, and now commonly called Camiguin Hanging-parrot, based on previously unstudied specimens in The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Delaware Museum of Natural History collected in the 1960’s by D. S. Rabor.
The mouse, locally called Philippine forest mouse, is scientifically identified as Apomys camiguinensis.
The third species which was last seen in the now devastated Mount Data between Benguet and Mountain Province some 112 years ago by British biologist John Whitehead, is a dwarf cloud rat scientifically named Carpomys malanurus. It was captured by scientists in Mount Pulag, a mossy rainforest facing destruction due to farming, some eight hours away from this city.
The hanging parrot and forest mouse discovery was bared by the April 5 issue of Fieldiana: Zoology, a peer-reviewed, scientific journal about biodiversity research published by The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
The rediscovery of the dwarf cloud rat was made by no less than Field Museum’s Dr. Lawrence Heaney and Danilo Balete, research associate of the Philippine National Museum who went to Mount Pulag in search for the rat .
The discoveries once again put the Philippines in the global biology map. Only this time — for increased hope that some rare species still thrive — because in the past, most of the news have been more of vanishing species, making the country known as one of the most critical “bio-hotspots in the world” as proclaimed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The hanging-parrot, locally called Colasisi, has bright green feathers covering most of the body. The throat and thighs are bright blue, and the top of the head and tail are brilliant scarlet-orange. Males and females have identical plumage, which is quite unusual in this group of parrots.
The description was provided by John Bates, Curator of Birds and Chair of Zoology at The Field Museum, and a co-author of one of the Fieldiana reports and from previously unstudied specimens in The Field Museum and the Delaware Museum of Natural History collected in the 1960’s by D. S. Rabor.
Bates said the series of specimens collected from Camiguin and additional series of Hanging-parrots from other Philippine Islands, provided the distinction needed in the identification.
One of L. camiguinensis’ characteristics that was key to identifying it as a new species is the fact that its plumage is relatively dull compared to other Philippine Hanging-parrots.
Because L. camiguinensis has not been recognized as a separate species, little is known about its habits, and it has been overlooked in terms of conservation. The discovery will now spur more efforts to establish the population size and requirements as a prerequisite for conservation planning and action, he added.
The Philippine forest mouse has large ears and eyes, a long tail and rusty-brown fur, and it feeds mostly on insects and seeds. The description is based on mice captured on Camiguin during a biological survey by Dr. Heaney and Blas Tabaranza Jr., Director of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Project of the Haribon Foundation, a Philippine conservation NGO based in Manila, on the steep slopes of one of the island’s volcanoes.
Local people had not previously known of the mouse, though they have known of the parrot because of its value in the pet trade. In 2002, Heaney, Tabaranza, and Eric Rickart, of the Utah Museum of Natural History, described a different species of forest-living rodent, Bullimus gamay, from Mt. Timpoong, the same mountain where the new mouse was collected. A frog (Oreophryne nana) named in 1967 had been thought to be the only vertebrate restricted to the island prior to the surveys by Heaney and Tabaranza.
The dwarf cloud rat, which unfortunately died during captivity just this month, has soft reddish-brown fur with a black mask around its black eyes, has small rounded ears, a broad and blunt snout and long tail covered with dark hair.
It is about 8 to ten inches long, less the tail and weighs no more than half a pound. It stays on mossy trees and feed on insects at night.
This dwarf cloud rat was sighted nowhere in the Philippines except in this province, lurking at elevations of 2,000 to 2,500 m montane and mossy forests.
All three discovered and rediscovered species are creeping slowly deep into the mossy forest jungles until they will find no place to run and no place to hide, Heany lamented.
Many of the animal species in the country are going the way of the dodo, the giant bird which was made extinct in the late 18th century in the island of Madagascar.
The country’s once lush forests are fast being depleted leaving only about less than 600,00 hectares of virgin forests out of the 25 million hectares in the early 1930s.
Indiscriminate logging, expansion of vegetable farms, mining and corrupt and graft-laden forestry policies are to blame
The Philippines has seven endemic critically endangered species identified by IUCN as the Ilin Island Cloud Rat (Crateromys paulus), the Mt. Isarog Striped Rat (Chrotomys gonzalesi), the Northern Luzon Shrew Rat (Crunomys fallax), the Philippines Tube-nosed Fruit Bat (Nyctimeme rabori), the Negros Shrew (Crocidura negrina), the Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) and the Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons).
Its endangered species are Calamian Deer (Axis calamianensis), Dinagat Bushy-tailed Cloud Rat (Crateromys australis), Dinagat Moonrat (Podogymnura aureospinula). Golden-capped Fruit Bat (Acerodon jubatus), Mindanao Gymnure (Podogymnura truei), Mindoro Shrew (Crocidura mindorus), Mt. Isarog Shrew-mouse (Archboldomys luzonensis), Mt. Malindang Shrew (Crocidura grandis), Northern Palawan Tree Squirrel (Sundasciurus juvencus), Palawan Soft-furred Mountain Rat (Palawanomys furvus), Panay bushy-tailed cloud rat ( Panay cloud runner) (Crateromys heaneyi), Visayan Spotted Deer (Cervus alfredi), and the White-winged Flying Fox (Pteropus leucopterus).
Thirty other species are vulnerable to extinction and 49 species are threatened out of the 153 animal species in the country, the IUCN Red List said.
Dr. Heany called on the Philippine government to give more teeth to its conservation program, which at its best, is lagging far behind its ASEAN counterparts./MICHAEL A. BENGWAYAN