SMUGGLED? At least 15 dead Pangolins are found in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental on March 18, 2017.
Photo: John Dale Salazar

Philippines: Dead Pangolins found in Negros Occidental
At least 15 frozen Pangolins with no internal organs are found at the roadside in Bacolod City
By Marchel P. Espina, 18th March 2017;

Residents of a reclaimed area in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental discovered a sack of dead Pangolins (Manis sp.) on Friday, March 17.

Pangolins, or Scaly Anteaters, are considered endangered species that are found in Palawan and other parts of the world.

They are said to be the most illegally traded animal in the world. The Independent reported that there are 8 species of Pangolin that are still in existence in India, China, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa.

The residents, who are not familiar with the mammals that usually inhabit forests and woodlands, claimed that the 15 Pangolins were frozen and had no internal organs when they were found at the roadside.

Al Orolfo, director of Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Negros Island Region, said the tissue of the Pangolins will be forwarded to DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau for DNA testing to determine if they came from Palawan or Malaysia.

In January, the Philippine Coast Guard intercepted a truck onboard MV St. Francis Xavier of 2GO, that carried smuggled marine species at Pier 4, North Harbor in Manila.

At least 7 boxes containing 60 Pangolins, 13 sacks of Seahorses (Hippocampus sp.), and one box of Sea Dragons (Pipefish) (SubF. Syngnathinae) were recovered in the 10-wheeler truck from Bacolod City.

Authorities, however, suspected that the truck originally came from Palawan.

Meanwhile, in Cauayan town, which is more than 3 hours away from Bacolod City, a dead Sea Turtle was washed ashore in Sitio Mabua in Barangay Poblacion on Thursday, March 16.

The Sea Turtle was already in a state of decomposition when it was discovered by the residents. It also had big cuts on its head and flippers.

Source: Rappler

These are likely to be Philippine Pangolins (Manis culionensis) from Palawan, although they could also be Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica), a species not native to the Philippines.

Spinner Dolphin. Dr Evelyn Saberon inspects the Dolphin carcass found in coast of Libon, Albay for necropsy at the Regional Fisheries Health Management and Diagnostics Laboratory at Fabrica, Bula, Camarines Sur. Photo courtesy of BFAR.
Photo: BFAR

Philippines: Parasites, changing temperature cause Dolphin deaths in Bicol
‘Parasites or their eggs may be carried through human or animal feces dumped in the sea that fish and even the marine mammals may feed on,’ says Dr Evelyn Saberon of BFAR
By Rhaydz B. Barcia, 11th March 2017;

Parasites from sea creatures that can affect humans killed two Dolphins in Bicol, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol reported here.

Dr Evelyn Saberon, BFAR veterinarian who conducted the necropsy of two stranded Dolphins, said she found thread-like worms in the stomach of the Dolphins found in Libon, Albay and Mercedes in Camarines Norte.

The Contracaecum parasite can also be found in humans.

Nonie Enolva, BFAR-Bicol Marine Fisheries Resources Management Section chief and spokesperson, said that a stranded adult female Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris), measuring 1.6 meters in length and weighing 43 kilograms, was brought in for necropsy at the Regional Fisheries Health Management and Diagnostics Laboratory of the BFAR regional office on March 4, 2017.

“The carcass was brought in by BFAR’s Fisheries Emergency Stranding Response Team personnel who were deployed immediately to the area after residents reported the Dolphin stranding on the same day,” Enolva said.

Spinner Dolphins are well known for acrobatic acts as they spin their bodies when they emerge from the water.

Enolva said this is the 3rd reported “marine mammal stranding” in Bicol that has resulted in death this year. This came less than a week after another Dolphin died in Mercedes despite rescue and release efforts last February 28, 2017.

After conducting a necropsy, Saberon found that the mammal had enteritis and its stomach and bladder were empty. This suggests that the animal had no food intake in the past few days prior to its death.

Petechial hemorrhaging (small red spots) was also detected in the animal’s intestines.

Contracaecum parasites – though not as severe as in the first Dolphin – also contributed to its death.

“The parasites were still alive. These parasites weakened the animal until its death,” Saberon said.

Temperature changes

Sudden changes in temperature also contributed to the stress of the Dolphin.

“The sudden changes in temperature contributed to the stress of the animal and that is why Dolphin stranding is more common in this part of the year,” Saberon added.

Saberon explained that some parasites found in marine mammals are zoonotic or can infest more than one species.

“Parasites or their eggs may be carried through human or animal feces dumped in the sea [that] fish and even the marine mammals may feed on,” she said.

Blood and tissue samples were taken from the animal to the Marine Mammal Research Stranding Laboratory in UP Diliman for their Project LepTox.

Project LepTox is a research effort to investigate the occurrence of leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a certain parasite that also affects humans.

Megamouth Shark

It will be recalled that in January 2015, a male Megamouth Shark was also stranded and found in the coast of Pioduran, Albay.

The Shark was captured by 39-year-old Edgar Chavez – a fisherman from Barangay Marigondon in Pioduran, Albay – and his companions.

Enolva said the Megamouth Shark (scientific name: Megachasma pelagios) is also the 3rd biggest filter-feeding Shark. A Megamouth Shark is among the rarest species in the world, weighing one ton with a life span of 100 years.

The Megamouth Shark can reach a maximum length of 17 feet and resides in great depths or deep water. It rises to the surface at night to feed on plankton.

Enolva said the Megamouth Shark is not edible as it contains poisonous toxins – it can have bio-accumulation of heavy metals. Once eaten by humans, it could cause infertility and even cancer.

The Megamouth Shark underwent taxidermy (all organs of the specimen were removed and its skin soaked in formalin) and stuffing for museum display.

The Shark, through taxidermy, was preserved and displayed at the Albay Parks and Wildlife for scientific study, following the order of then Albay governor and now 2nd District Representative Joey Sarte Salceda.

In July 2010, a giant Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that had started to decompose, was also washed ashore in the coastal town of Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

Source: Rappler

Philippines: Philippine Eagle fighting for survival after being shot

24th February 2016;

An endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) which was released into the wild under a conservation program is now fighting for survival after being shot, a Philippine conservation group said Wednesday, February 24.

The meter-long (3.3-foot) Monkey-eating Eagle, which preys on Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and other small animals sharing its forest habitat, was shot over the weekend.

One man surrendered to the Philippine Eagle Foundation in Davao City on Mindanao island on Sunday, February 21, and also handed over the injured bird, the Philippine Eagle Foundation said in a statement.

He, along with a second man, was turned over to the police. Both are under arrest.

“The wounded eagle is under observation but I cannot assess its survival chances at this time,” the foundation’s curator Anna Mae Sumaya told AFP.

The foundation said the shooting shattered the bird’s right wing. It was unclear if the 6-year-old male would ever fly again.

Killing Monkey-eating Eagles is punishable by a 12-year prison term and a P1 million ($21,000) fine, while wounding the species incurs a 4-year prison term and a half million-peso fine.

In August 2015, 3-year-old Philippine Eagle Pamana was found dead two months after being released into the wild. The bird had a bullet hole in the right breast.

The Philippine Eagle is famed for its elongated nape feathers that form into a shaggy crest. Its two-meter wingspan makes it one of the world’s largest eagles.

It is found nowhere except the Philippines, where it is the country’s national bird. About 600 of them are thought to be left in the wild.

Source: Rappler

Philippines: Philippine Eagle fighting for survival after being shot

Philippines: Rare fish spotted on Albay beach
Also known as ‘king of herrings’, the Oarfish is considered to be the longest bony fish ever to be recorded in the year 2015
By Jene-Anne Pangue & Bea Orante, 14th January 2016;

A carcass of a Giant Oarfish (Regalecus glesne) was found in Albay province on January 6.

Recovered on a beach in Pantao, Libon, an Albay town, it measured 4 meters and weighed 50 kilos.

A series of incredible photos capturing the Oarfish uploaded on Albay Governor Joey Salcedo’s Facebook page went viral.

Its appearance on the coast of Albay bewildered beachgoers and fishermen. This fish is thought to have inspired legends of giant sea serpents.

Conservation

Regalecus glesne, known by the fanciful name of “King of Herrings” or the more stoic “Oarfish” was credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest bony fish ever to be recorded in the year 2015.

According to their FLMNH Ichthyology biological profile, this elusive creature is found living at depths of 3,280 feet (1,000 m) but more typically to depths of 656 feet (200 m).

They are not known to have any commercial value, and their meat is inedible due to its gelatinous consistency.

Unlike other bony fish, the body of the oarfish is scaleless with the skin covered instead by a silvery coat of material called guanine.

Since their stranding is rare and they are not commonly found alive, not much is known about the Giant Oarfish. Their conservation status, therefore, is also unknown, according to Oceana.org.

Source: Rappler

Whale Shark P-930, named Pintados.
P-930. Pintados on the beach at Socorro, Surigao del Norte
Photos: Large Marine Vertebrates (LAMAVE) Project Philippines

Philippines: Every shark counts
Whale Sharks, also known as ’butanding’, are protected by Philippine law
By Sally Snow, 10th January 2016;

The beginning of 2016 saw the Philippines lose one of less than a thousand Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) ever identified in the country.

Jessica Labaja, a researcher from the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines, confirmed that the Whale Shark that tragically died, entangled in a fishing net in Surigao del Norte on January 2, 2016, was in fact P-930, the 930th Whale Shark to be identified in the Philippines

P-930, nicknamed Pintados, in honor of the Filipino people that used to inhabit the Visayas and whose bodies were covered in tattoos to display their bravery, was first encountered alive by Jessica and her team of researchers on December 13, 2015, while on a scientific survey in Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte.

The male shark measured 7 meters in length and was encountered while feeding in the rich water of Pintuyan in Sogod Bay. He was identified by the spot and line pattern on his body that is unique to each individual Whale Shark.

On the dawn of January 2, he was discovered already dead. He was found entangled in a fishing net in Barangay Pamosaingan, Socorro, Surigao del Norte, by one of the local fishermen, who alerted the local authorities.

With the assistance of the local men and women, under the leadership of Barangay Captain Felipa Liquido, members of the Philippine National Police, and Senior Police Officer (SPO2) Wilson Antipasado, one of the most promising Whale Shark researchers in the country, Miss Jessica Labaja, conducted a necropsy to identify the health status of the Whale Shark prior to the entanglement in the pamo net.

The results of the necropsy determined that the entanglement and derived suffocation was the only cause of death.

Whale Shark are the largest fish on earth. They can grow to a length of up to 20 meters, and live for over 100 years. Pintados was only 7 meters long and estimated to be around 20 years old. He was found dead in a healthy condition with his stomach still full of food.

A tragedy that affects us all

The premature death of Pintado is a tragedy for many reasons.

Whale Shark like him support a sustainable tourism industry in the nearby Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte and in Donsol, Sorsogon, where tourists fly from across the globe to see these incredible giants, fuelling the creation of alternative livelihoods and the local economy.

The loss of each individual is equivalent to the loss of income for the local economy.

Secondly, the Visayas, which historically was a prime hunting ground for Whale Shark for over a century, made progress when the Fisheries Administrative Order 193 in 1998 saved these giants from extinction.

While the fishery ban was difficult for many of the fishing villages, it was a necessary move to ensure the long-term conservation of this species.

In the 1990s nearly 1000 Whale Sharks were killed, and since then, nearly 20 years after the ban, researchers and the public have encountered less than 1000 individual Whale Sharks alive in the whole country.

These giants are slowly recolonizing our Philippine waters, however it will take many more years to ensure their complete recovery.

Whale Sharks are not only an incredible tourism attraction when properly managed, but they are the indicator of a healthy ocean and are indispensable to maintain the balance in the marine ecosystem.

Source: Rappler

RESCUED DOLPHIN. Local authorities and residents in a village in Catbalogan City rescue a dolphin found washed up on shore. Photo: Simon Conejos

Samar community saves stranded dolphin
Residents from the coastal village of Silanga say the dolphin ran aground on August 18 due to the strong waves coming from Maqueda Bay
By Kim Mervin Labagala, 20th August 2015;

Local authorities rescued a young dolphin beached near a coastal village in Samar province on Wednesday morning, August 19.

Residents from the coastal village of Silanga in Catbalogan City said the dolphin was washed ashore by strong waves coming from Maqueda Bay.

Vergil Ebron, a former village official, immediately informed Catbalogan City Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan about the beached dolphin. The mayor ordered CAO and the local police chief to check the condition of the dolphin and to ensure its safety.

“I am very grateful for the amount of concern and care that Ebron and the people of Mombon had shown for the little dolphin,” Tan said.

CAO found that the dolphin was healthy and decided it was ready for release.

Although they were not able to identify its species, CAO officials were able to measure the young sea mammal before it slithered back into the water. From rostrum to flukes, the dolphin measured 79 inches long. It had a circumference of 54 inches.

Source: Rappler

This appears to be a Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris).

LOST NATIONAL TREASURE. Philippine Eagle Pamana’s carcass is found near a creek in Mount Hamiguitan on August 16, 2015. Photo: Philippine Eagle Foundation

Philippines: Philippine Eagle Pamana found shot dead in Davao Oriental
Pamana, a 3-year-old Philippine Eagle released into the wild in June, is found with a bullet hole in her right breast in Mount Hamiguitan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
By Pia Ranada, 19th August 2015;

A critically-endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) just recently released into the wild was found shot dead in Mount Hamiguitan Range, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Davao Oriental.

The eagle, named “Pamana” (Legacy) by conservationists, was found with a bullet hole in her right breast that shattered her left shoulder, said Dennis Salvador, Executive Director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

A metal fragment believed to be from a shattered gun pellet was also found in the carcass.

Scientists from PEF found her body on August 16 after the tracker they had outfitted her with went into mortality mode – a signal that she was dead.

Her body was already decomposing when they found it near a creek below thick forests.

PEF released Pamana into the wild only in June 12, in honor of Philippine Independence Day. She was around 3 years old at the time of her death. The site where she was found was only one kilometer from where they had released her, said Salvador.

Salvador said they deferred announcing her death to Wednesday, August 19, after they finished conducting a necropsy to confirm the cause of death.

The bullet that killed Pamana came from an airgun, a weapon commonly used to kill Philippine Eagles, said Salvador. He said they are not able to determine who is responsible for her death.

This is not the first time Pamana had suffered from human-inflicted injuries. In 2012, she was found in Iligan City with superficial gunshot wounds and minor bruises. She was brought to the PEF rehabilitation facility in Davao City where they nursed her back to health until her release last June.

Government officials also mourned the loss of one of the country’s few remaining eagles.

“We are saddened and strongly condemn the killing of Pamana. It is unfortunate that despite increased awareness and intensive information campaign, we continue to encounter such loss of magnificent and valuable wildlife,” said Biodiversity Management Bureau chief Theresa Mundita Lim in a text message to Rappler.

She said Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 11, along with PEF, will conduct an investigation on who was responsible for the eagle’s death.

Hunting in a protected area?

The death of a Philippine Eagle in Mount Hamiguitan comes as a shock because it is one of the country’s protected areas.

In fact, PEF chose to release Pamana in the mountain range specifically because of strong local commitment to protect the area.

But initial findings show that Pamana was shot near the fringes of the protected mountain range – a buffer zone “accessible to anyone,” Lim said.

“Fragmenting or shrinking of range area, encroachment, and scarcity of food sometimes drives the eagle to open areas which exposes it increasingly to poachers and irresponsible gun owners,” she explained.

PEF had plans to release even more Philippine eagles there in Mount Hamiguitan in the future. But now, they want the threats to be addressed first.

“Yes, we can release again but not until these threats are sufficiently addressed,” said Salvador.

Davao Oriental local governments and the national government have allotted funds for protection and conservation. Part of these funds go to forest guards in charge of, among other things, ensuring poaching does not happen within the park.

But the killing of Pamana shows the protection measures in the mountain range are far from sufficient.

“We have to get rid of this culture of paper protection and cosmetics on the way we manage our natural heritage. If we lose these treasures, there is no way anyone can recreate it,” said Salvador.

The mountain is also the country’s most recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Site, an honor that puts it among the world’s most important ecosystems.

One of the reasons for its spot on the list is its reputation as a habitat of the Philippine Eagle, one of the rarest raptors in the world and the country’s national bird.

It is classified as “Critically Endangered” or close to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only found in the Philippines, only around 400 pairs are left in the wild.

The Philippine Eagle population is threatened by loss of habitat due to deforestation and poaching.

Source: Rappler