Silliman University is hosting the Philippine Biodiversity Symposium in Dumaguete City on 11-14 April. Twenty years ago to the day, a group of 26 wildlife conservation practitioners met in Silliman to share experiences, discuss common conservation issues, and plan collaborative research and conservation endeavors. Little did they know that this initial meeting would be the first of yearly conferences, with about 200 conservationists participating. The original group was formally registered in 1993 as the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines (WCSP), a professional organization of wildlife researchers, managers, scientists, and conservation practitioners. Silliman has been host to WCSP’s milestones: the 1st, 5th, 10th, and now this 20th symposium.
Keynote speakers for the opening program on 11 April include Dr. Angel C. Alcala, the former Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and former president of Silliman University; Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, former undersecretary of the DENR and current president of Silliman University, and Dr. Lawrence Heaney, a research biologist from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, in the United States. Both Alcala and Heaney are pioneer members of the Society.
Over 200 delegates have arrived from all over the Philippines from Batanes to Zamboanga, as well as participants from Australia, the United States, Guam, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium. WCSP members, DENR personnel from the central and field offices, non-government organizations, research institutions, teachers and students will be convening to discuss the state of biodiversity research and conservation throughout the Philippines, and helping identify priorities for the future. “The Philippines has the greatest concentration of unique plants and animals of any country in the world,” says Dr. Heaney. “You can think of the biodiversity of the Philippines as being like the Galapagos Islands times ten. This biological richness can become a great source of national pride, ecotourism, and economic stability.”
The growing participation in the annual symposium demonstrates the increasing interest in biodiversity in the Philippines. In part, this growth reflects concern about the rapid loss of native plant and animal species within the Philippines, as more natural land is developed or farmed. This year’s theme, “Celebrating 20 Years, Preparing for Future Challenges,” is a prompt for a review of the status of Philippine biodiversity over the past two decades, WCSP’s growth and contribution, and planning and networking to continue to advance wildlife research and conservation in the Philippines.
According to Dr. Alcala, “In the early 1990s, only few faculty members in selected higher education institutions were engaged in biodiversity research. There is probably no question that WCSP has, through its annual symposia, contributed to the increasing number of teachers in higher education institutions who have been conducting research on biodiversity and are involved to varying extent in conservation activities.”
Negros Oriental is an excellent location for this symposium with its rich biodiversity. Along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the local government protects this biodiversity through the Provincial Wildlife Conservation Council, and the official mascot of Negros Oriental, the Negros Bleeding-heart Pigeon.
Sponsors of the symposium include Flora and Fauna International, Smart Communications, Conservation International, Bat Conservation International, the University of Kansas, The Field Museum of Natural History, and the Province of Negros Oriental (offices of the Governor, the Vice-Governor, and the Congressman of the 1st District).
Source: WCSP Symposium Organizing Committee