PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – Not far from the 22,000-hectare Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a 60,000-hectare pristine forest that remains unprotected and which the local government and indigenous groups seek to preserve with the creation of Cleopatra’s National Forest Reserve.
The center of this large forest is shaped by the 35,000-hectare Cleopatra’s Needle, which gets its name from the obelisk-like structure that is found on its summit. At 1,593 meters above sea level, it is the highest peak of Puerto Princesa and surroundings.
A real biological gem, according to Philippine News Agency’s Jonah van Beijnen, the forest is the last safe haven for countless endemic species that functions as an important corridor for species crossing the island.
Thus the Center for Sustainability (CS), in collaboration with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and its other partners, work hand in hand with the indigenous communities of the area to preserve a large portion of its forests.
Members of the Batak Tribe are known caretakers of the Cleopatra’s Needle.
They all seek to create a “critical habitat” of the Cleopatra’s Needle Forest Reserve under PCSD Resolution No. 13-481 as an amendment to Section 50 of Administrative Order No. 12, Series of 2011.
Rainforest Trust, Global Wildlife conservation, Amphibian Survival Alliance, German Development Cooperation (GIZ), Otterfonds Foundation, and Fauna and Flora International support the proposal aimed to preserve 40,000 hectares of the forest that is home to hundreds of endemic wildlife.
What makes Cleopatra’s Needle special
Eighty-five percent of Palawan’s unique species of birds and mammals can be found in Cleopatra’s Needle. The endangered Palawan toadlet (Pelophryne albotaeniata), the vulnerable Philippine horn-frog, and a lot more unique amphibian and reptile genus consider this as their safe haven.
The forests surrounding Cleopatra’s Needle are also home to the dwindling members of the Batak tribe. From 400 in 2012, they are now down to 150. This tribe is known as the first inhabitants of the Philippines and they still live in equilibrium with the forest, with their main source of livelihood from rattan and honey. However, because of decline of the forests and attacks from outsiders, the Batak tribe is having trouble in sustaining their livelihood.
Their last refuge are the forests of Cleopatra’s Needle. These indigenous communities depend on the forest resources for their livelihood. To protect the cultural and traditional practices of these communities, it is critical that the area is preserved.
The area also serves as the largest watershed in the municipality, providing water for about 30 percent of the residents in the city.
Biodiversity study of Palawan
Cleopatra’s Needle is in Palawan, which has received international recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a Biosphere Reserve and which contains two World Heritage sites.
Despite such recognition, Palawan still remains relatively understudied and its forests are diminishing.
As part of this project, a biodiversity survey has been conducted. The Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) was executed by a team of scientists to assess the biodiversity of the different species groups present in the area.
The program included a large group expedition held between December 1 to 14, 2014, as well as a series of smaller research trips, which were conducted between December 2014 to February 2015.
The island is identified in a November 2013 study published in Science, as the world’s fourth most irreplaceable area for its endemic and threatened wildlife.
Read More: http://www.interaksyon.com/article/111969/puerto-princesa-city-govt-indigenous-people-ask-protect-cleopatras-needle-in-palawan