Posted at 1:10 pm August 17, 2010
Tags: Climate Change, Environment
By Anna Valmero
Captive Colasisis destined for the
illegal wildlife trade
NORZAGARAY, BULACAN – For environmental
advocate Fredd Ochavo, the Ipo Dam watershed is a symbol of hope
that the Philippines can be green again despite years of rampant
illegal logging and wildlife poaching.
Last weekend, a group of birders joined Ochavo
on a trip to Ipo Dam and to see the rare grey-headed fish-eagle
(Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), slender-billed crow (Corvus enca)
and tarictic hornbills (Penelopides manilla), among others.
“Nung nakita ko yung 50 tarictic hornbills,
nabuhayan ako ng loob. Unang beses na nakakita ako ng ganun karaming
hornbill sa tagal ng punta ko dito. Nasabi ko sa sarili ko may
pag-asa pa ang Pilipinas. (When I saw 50 tarictic hornbills, I
was encouraged. It was my first time to see so many birds. I said
to myself that there is still hope for the Philippines),”says
Ochavo, a member of the UP Mountaineers (UPM) and Wild Bird Club
of the Philippines (WBCP).
Kuya Fredd, as he is aptly called by the kids
in a small village here, visits the Ipo Dam watershed monthly
and invites fellow mountaineers and birdwatchers to see the avian
wildlife in the area. His other purpose there is to teach the
kids and locals about the importance of environment conservation
Over a decade ago, informal settlers came to
Ipo Dam and lived at the ancestral domains of the Dumagats by
planting crops inside the watershed. These settlers cleared the
fields by kaingin (slash-and-burn).
Others were catching local wildlife such as
the green-feathered Philippine hanging parrot or colasisi (Loriculus
philippensis) and sell them for P60 or barter the animals for
two kilos of NFA rice.
Since then, patches of forest cover have been
reduced to barren land or plantation of crops such as mango, banana
and vegetables that do not grow naturally at the habitat, Ochavo
says as he points to a huge area recently cleared by kaingin.
“Kaingin is an unsustainable practice
as settlers need to clear huge tracks of land. It only allows
one sustainable harvest and because this erodes the topsoil, informal
settlers often use chemical fertilizers, which could pollute the
water and harm the wildlife in the watershed,” says Ochavo.
He also notes the houses sprouting along the
riverbanks pose danger to the river because the lack of sewerage
system only mean that human waste go directly to the river.
Ipo Dam, which is located some seven kilometers
downstream from Angat Dam, is managed by theMetropolitan Waterworks
and Sewerage System (MWSS).
Together with the Forest Management Bureau of
the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, MWSS issued
a report in 2004 stating that 70 percent of the forests of Ipo
Dam watershed is already denuded.
This report was cited by the UPM in its independent
report on Ipo Dam watershed, concluding that reforestation efforts
would be worthless without forest protection.
Ochavo’s group taught 40 children and
adults about the consequences of destroying the forests and poaching
One of the settlers, Joey Dela Cruz, 38, who
came from Pampanga, says the lack of jobs in the area forced him
and other residents of the sitio to engage in kaingin and poach
wildlife. In fact, there were nine colasisibirds under his mango
tree that will be sold to interested buyers visiting the area.
“Hangga’t wala akong trabaho para
suportahan yung pamilya ko, manghuhuli ako ng ibon. (As long as
I do not have a job to support my family, I will have to catch
birds),” says Dela Cruz, who also guards the trees planted
by UPM in the area.
A 17-year-old participant in the lecture, who
was carrying a bolo, molded a chainsaw instead of animals during
one of the activities, which Ochavo interprets as the youth’s
way of telling that he is fond of cutting trees and might be using
This is where Ochavo sees his role as a catalyst
of change: by starting with education to get the community involved
about the fight for a greener Philippines.
When asked if he plans to report poachers in
the area, Ochavo says authorities such as MWSS have to step up
to make the settlers know that it is illegal to cut trees in a
forest reserve such as Ipo Dam or to poach wildlife.
Converting people like Dela Cruz from not poaching
will take a long time, says Ochavo. Presently, he visits the site
monthly and pays Dela Cruz P150 for taking care of the trees planted
“Education is the first step to make people
understand environmental issues and how our actions have consequences
in our future. I just hope more people will do their part, including
the authorities, because we don’t need another Ondoy to
remind us how badly we need to help save our forests here,”