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WBCP Press Release (DRAFT 2)

7th Philippine Bird Festival-Dumaguete
September 23-34, 2011
Silliman University campus
Dumaguete City

The 7th Philippine Bird Festival, the country’s largest celebration of avifaunal diversity and bird lore awareness, takes wing on September 23 in Dumaguete City and cap the observance of the 2011 National Tourism Week celebrations in Negros Oriental.

Themed “Birds in the Wild Help Forests Thrive,” this year’s festival will highlight the endemic bird species of Negros like the rare Negros Bleeding Heart, the Visayan Hornbill and the Visayan Flowerpecker, which play key roles in propagating this island’s forest habitats.

Bird watchers, conservationists and nature enthusiasts from all over the country and abroad are expected to flock to Silliman University campus in Dumaguete City on September 23 and 24 for the 7th annual Philippine Bird Festival, the country’s largest celebration of avifaunal diversity and bird lore awareness.

Themed Langgam Paluparon, Lasang Palambu-on (Birds in the Wild Help Forests Thrive), this year’s bird festival aims to drum public support for the conservation and awareness of the forests of Negros and the protection of fruit-eating species like hornbills, which play a key role in propagating forest tree species.

“Birds are the best caretakers of our wilderness areas by helping propagate plants and trees in the forests and other habitats. Different birds have different functions; some pollinate, some fertilize. Others controls pests,” says Anna M. Gonzales, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), the country’s leading bird watching society and organizer of the Philippine Bird Festival. “We hope that higher awareness of birds’ roles in their natural habitats can make people stop buying from the illegal wildlife trade, from hunting of key species and reverse the destruction of forests and other wild habitats.”

The forests of Negros are a haven for endemic birds like Visayan Hornbills, Negros Bleeding-Heart Pigeons, Negros Striped-Babblers and Visayan Flowerpeckers. These species have evolved to fill unique niches in the forest ecosystem and are among the specialized birds found in the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park, which is being promoted as an international birdwatching destination by the Department of Tourism and the Recreational Outdoor Exchange. The nature area derives its name from the numerous species of swifts (balinsasayao) which includes the endemic Philippine Needletail.

Bird Festival Committee chair Michael Lu said the annual event hopes to raise the bar of awareness about the bird life of the islands, promote public participation in conservation and encourage the creation of more public green spaces.

Lu said there are more than 570 species of birds in the Philippines, no fewer than 180 are found only in the archipelago. This year, the Philippine Bird Festival logo depicts the Negros Bleeding-Heart or puñalada, a strikingly beautiful forest pigeon found nowhere else but Negros Island and the northern part of neighboring Panay. Lu said Negros forests are also the only home of the extremely rare endemic Negros Fruit Dove, which ha snot been seen in the wild for decades.

“Philippine forests are part of the Asia-wide ecosystem and their destruction has a severe impact on Asian birdlife,” Lu explained. Negros forests, for example, provide food and shelter for migratory woodland birds during the long winter months in northern Asia and Alaska. These species include Japanese Sparrowhawk, Arctic Warbler and Mugimaki Flycatcher.

The Seventh Philippine Bird Festival will cap the observance of the 2011 National Tourism Week and be highlighted by cultural festivities by local troupes. The festival will be held in Silliman University campus and is open to the public free of charge.

“This year’s Bird Festival has added significance because we are holding it in Silliman University, the home—rather the ‘nest’—of some of the country’s foremost biologists and pioneer ornithologists,” according to Lu.

“The Festival and our venue serve as our tribute to Filipino biologists Dr. Dioscoro S. Rabor, Dr. Angel C. Alcala, Prof. Rodolfo B. Gonzales, Prof. Alfredo Y. Reyes for blazing the trail in naturalscience and conservation,” said WBCP’s Gonzales.

It will include an exhibit of bird photos, an appreciation of the contributions of ornithologist Dr. Dioscoro Rabor, bird-watching and bird photography lectures, and a conservation forum on the status of Negros biodiversity. Organizers said an activity center featuring bird-themed games and quiz shows, arts and crafts, story telling and face painting will be on tap for the young and the young at heart.

The Philippine Bird Festival was launched by local bird watching hobbyists in 2005 and more recently brought the message of birdlife awareness and conservation to the country’s important bird areas like Balanga City in Bataan and Davao City.

Similar events take place throughout the world each year, attracting large numbers of bird watchers, scientists and nature enthusiasts. In Asia, some of the well-known events are the annual Taipei International Birdwatching Fair, the Thailand Birdwatching Fair and the Asian Bird Fair, which will take place in Tainan, Taiwan in October 2011.

The 7th Philippine Bird Festival will be jointly-hosted by Silliman University, the Negros Oriental provincial government, the City of Dumaguete and Negros-based conservation group PENAGMANNAKI. This year’s festival is also sponsored by Team Energy Foundation, the Department of Tourism, Primer Group and C. K. Lu Enterprises.

Foreign organizations such as the Chinese Wild Bird Federation, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Malaysian Nature Society, Nature Society of Singapore and local conservation organizations Negros Forest & Ecological Foundation, Katala Foundation, Philippine Biodiversity Foundation also made known their support for the Dumaguete event.