26 August 2008

Conservationists teach Subic residents how to live with wildlife

Subic’s rich and diverse wildlife may appeal greatly to visitors to this free port, but some residents and business locators have lately expressed concerns about wild animals becoming “too comfortable” with people.

To help residents and visitors live harmoniously with nature, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Wildlife in Need (WIN)-Subic recently launched an information-dissemination campaign dubbed “Living with Wildlife” — a series of presentations designed to familiarize people with wildlife found in this free port.

According to SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya dela Llana-Koval, they have been receiving some complaints lately, mostly about monkeys becoming “too aggressive” in their foraging—overturning garbage cans and invading properties.

Koval said this prompted them to team up with WIN, a non-profit organization which has been promoting wildlife conservation here in 2003, and undertaking habitat protection and restoration, co
mmunity-based action programs, public education, and professional training for wildlife protection.

“As you can see, nature and development sit side-by-side in this free port,” Koval explained, adding that it is not unusual for one to see snakes or wild boars crossing roads, or long-tailed macaque monkeys entering housing areas and raiding trash bins.

“We just have to learn how to deal with situations when we encounter wild animals,” said WIN president Gail Laude, who presented a slideshow describing the appearance and behavior of wildl
ife endemic to the Subic Bay Freeport.

According to Laude, it would be advisable for residents and visitors here to know how animals look like when they are afraid, defensive, confused or angry, so that untoward incidents could be avoided.

Monkeys, for example, bare their fangs when they are afraid, Laude said. “But you would know they are really angry when you see them pull their lips back at the same time that they show their fangs.”

Other animals, like m
onitor lizards, swish their tails when they are defensive.

Laude said that the best thing that people should do when encountering wild animals is to stay at a safe distance and to leave them alone.

Another rule, she added, is not to feed the wild animals, and to secure trash bins in order not to attract wildlife.

Laude said her organization believes that even with the fast-paced development of Subic, wildlife protection and conservation would still be possible in this free port where boundaries have been set to ensure that development will not creep into the habitats of wild animals.

“There will always be that kind of conflict—the competition for space,” Laude said. “But we believe there is a way for us—humans and wildlife alike—to live together and have enough space and freedom.”

Koval also clarified that while there is now a growing demand for residential and commercial spaces in Subic, the SBMA makes it a point not to sacrifice nature for industrialization.

She added that of the 55,102 hectares of land in Subic, the SBMA has classified a 3,000-hectare area as “core ecological zone” that environmentalists refer to as a “no-development zone.”

This serves as a wildlife sanctuary for the 122 animal species and 745 plant species that can be found in Subic, she added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)