most people think of in regards to wildlife but this small island nation in Southeast Asia is actually one of the most biologically rich countries in the world¹. However, like much of the rest of the planet, its fascinating and unique wildlife is facing a number of threats which have caused some beautiful creatures to be listed as endangered or threatened.
Perhaps the cutest animal on the list is the Philippine Tarsier (Carlito syrichta), one of the smallest known primates and which is endemic to the region. Mostly nocturnal, these tiny animals (no larger than a man’s hand) live off a diet of insects, which they retrieve from wood and which has given rise to the folk belief that they eat charcoal². The tarsier is protected under Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (Republic Act No. 9147) but it is still threatened by habitat loss due to legal and illegal logging, and slash and burn agriculture which have reduced its forest home significantly³. It is also heavily hunted for food and as a pet, with markets in Manila reportedly being flooded with individuals which sell for around $10⁴.
Slightly less appealing than the tarsier but in just as much trouble is the Philippine freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis), another animal endemic to the region. These predators grow to around 10 feet (3m) and are listed as being critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, mainly due to hunting as their hide is extremely prized in the fashion industry. Only around 100 are thought to remain in the wild.
Several bird species are fighting for their survival, with the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the Mindoro bleeding heart (Gallicolumba platenae) and the rufous-headed hornbill (Aceros waldeni) all suffering due to habitat loss and hunting. The eagle is one of the largest in the world and is the national bird of the Philippines, while the bleeding heart is notable for its distinctive red mark on its chest which gives it its name⁵,⁶. The hornbill suffers also from being a target of nest poachers, who seek the valuable females for sale in the bird trade and eggs for human consumption⁷.
The oceans around the Philippines are just as rich in life as the islands themselves, and one of the most charismatic animals that is suffering is the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate). Several nesting sites of this wide roaming animal are known around the islands but they are prized highly for their meat and for their shells, which are made into decorative accessories⁸. They also face the threats of habitat destruction and egg collection and are particularly vulnerable to being caught in marine debris, such as fishing gear.
This is just a brief look at the species of the Philippines whose populations are dwindling and while it might make for depressing reading, there is still hope for these majestic, charismatic and noble animals. It’s certainly an uphill struggle, but with organizations such as Conservation International and the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation working hard to preserve and educate, it pays to remain optimistic.