The Philippines is home to more than 74 species of bats of which 54% are endemic to the country. Despite the local, national and international efforts directed towards conservation of wildlife, many bat populations particularly roosting populations of flying foxes are in dramatic decline. In most cases, this is due to hunting or loss of natural habitats.
The Clarin Group of Islands Wilderness Area is a protected area composed of five islands shared between the Municipalities of Tubigon and Clarin in Bohol Island, central Philippines. One of the two islands belonging to Tubigon is Cabgan Island featuring extensive mangroves, roosting colonies of endemic and threatened Philippine Duck Anas luzonica and the colony of flying foxes.
Like many rural communities in the country, opportunities to improve the local economy in Tubigon are limited. After the earthquake that struck the island in 15 October 2013, people had difficulties recovering from the massive destruction and daily quest to meet basic needs is always a struggle.
The Local Government of Tubigon in partnership with Grassroots Travel, recognized the ecological and social values of bats and their habitats but also the economic opportunities and “ecotourism” importance that flying foxes or bats can bring to the region. It may not be the ideal way but it is good enough reason for habitats to be protected locally. This would be an opportunity for Tubigon to get a share of the recovering tourism industry of Bohol, and offer another unique ecotourism tour option for the island. The Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PBCFI) in turn provided simple bat identification training workshops, basic bat ecology and simple bat monitoring activities.
We believe that for a conservation endeavor to succeed, local stakeholders should be the lead group in putting forward the local conservation agenda and in generating benefits from protecting natural resources. A strong partnership with municipal government coupled with activities that enhances the local capacity of communities would be more effective in addressing conservation issues. By providing a background on conservation, importance of natural habitats, endemic wildlife as well as potential activities that promote the welfare of the forest and wildlife as well as provide long-term economic benefits to the people would be a step closer in influencing perceptions of local inhabitants in developing eco-tourism activities e.g. batwatching. The proposed training was designed to train local communities to identify bats in their municipality and to act as local bat guides in the area.
Training Fishermen as Batmen
A group of 39 fishermen and women from the fishing village of Macaas, Tubigon town in Bohol Island, Philippines were trained in basic bat ecology, bat identification and monitoring last 23-26 March 2014. Of the 39 participants five were Barangay Health Workers (BHW), five were members of Macaas barangay council including the barangay captain and the rest were fishermen and members of the Peoples Organization. The training was funded by the Local Government of Tubigon in partnership with Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. and Grassroots Travel.
The roost site in Cabgan Island is already functionally protected, where Large Flying Fox Pteropus vampyrus and Island Flying Fox Pteropus hypomelanus colonies are tolerant of human presence and can be seen at a close distance. This can be developed as “showcase” sites with a locally – driven education and awareness program to draw visitors and tourists to the sites and learn about these bats.
The ecotourism project incorporates local support for roost-site protection and the Local government units are taking the lead develop in identifying select sites as protected sanctuaries that will double as high-value educational and tourism venues. Local tour guides, typically already employed to show visitors unique wildlife and forest areas near the community, were trained specifically to answer questions about the fruit bats and the need for bat conservation in the Philippines.
The training started with lectures of bat diversity in the Philippines, importance of bats, basic bat ecology and use of equipment. Participants were given the chance to practice and handle equipment e.g. binoculars and spotting scopes. Effort was made to make sure that each participant was given a chance to familiarize themselves to the basic parts of the equipment after which they were then taken to the field to try using the equipment and see the roosting colonies of bats.
Bat Guiding Practicum
At the end of three days of lectures and field activities, the participants will conduct their first-ever guided tour taking volunteer tourists from the municipality and their village. Invited guests will rate their conduct and performance and will be the basis for their final evaluation.
We will be closely monitoring the progress and development of this batwatching tour on its impact on the lives of the people of Macaas and Tubigon, the economy on the locality as well as on the welfare of the wildlife in the area including that of the bats, the threatened and endemic Philippine Duck, shellfishes and mangroves.
For more information, please contact:
Director for Field Operations
Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc.
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org