Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program
The alarming reduction of the Philippine Cockatoo population to only 23 birds on Rasa Island in the Municipality of Narra in Palawan, prompted the LGU to pursue the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program (PCCP).
Commencing in July 1998, the PCCP was designed as a community-based wildlife conservation program that entailed the transformation of bird poachers into wildlife protection wardens. This core strategy immediately removed the main threat factor to the endangered cockatoos and also provided the program with valuable indigenous knowledge for its management. The program included the provision of alternative income sources to the former bird poachers and their families. Apparently, the bird poachers were members of the Tagbanua tribal community, who are among the most marginalized in the municipality. They only engaged in poaching to earn income and bring food to their families.
The transparent and participatory processes resulted in the buy-in of key stakeholders, particularly the poachers. Public consultations and planning workshops continued in different stages of the program. Local Protected Area Committees and Management Boards were established and became functional from 1998 onwards. These were composed of representatives from the LGUs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the private sector, tribal representatives, and Katala Foundation, Inc. (KFI) as the host NGO.
By 1999, all the identified poachers were trained as paid wildlife wardens by the PCCP. This resulted in an increase of individual income from less than PhP50 to PhP200 per working day. The wardens also received additional benefits such as accident insurance, SSS and PhilHealth. Alternative livelihood projects such as hog-fattening and the establishment of an agricultural cooperative store were also offered to the warden’s family members. The increased incomes enabled the wildlife wardens to put up their own small businesses such as welding shops and fishing boat repair shops.
Intensive conservation education conducted by the LGU and the KFI, and the annual celebration of the “Katala Festival” heightened awareness about the unique and critically endangered species in their midst. Nest monitoring and protection, including the banding of nestlings was conducted. Predation by monitor lizards was controlled through fencing of nesting trees with iron sheets. A total of 3,000 trees were also planted in Rasa Island and the adjacent mainland. As the population of the Philippine Cockatoo gradually increased to more than 300 birds, Narra began to be promoted as the Philippine Cockatoo Capital of the World. By 2008, the Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary was chosen as one of the top 13 Birdwatching Sites in the Philippines.
The program has been replicated in five other PCCP sites, three of which show an increase of the Philippine Cockatoo population. The warden scheme that employed ex-poachers has also been replicated in other wildlife species conservation projects in the Philippines, for example, the Palawan Forest Turtle, the Philippine Crocodile and a number of Philippine Hornbill species.