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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Lord of the Forest

If it’s possible to fall in love with a bird…

this would be The One.

“It is possible that no one has ever described this rare raptor, one of the world’s largest, without using the word “magnificent.” If there are those who did, then heaven heal their souls.”

“In the kind of irony all too familiar to conservationists, however, the very evolutionary adaptations that made it magnificent have also made it one of the planet’s most endangered birds of prey.”

where have all the forests gone?

where have all the forests gone?

“Awareness about conservation issues, however, is rising in the Philippines. A series of devastating floods and mud slides in the past decade has convinced Filipinos that the loss of forest affects not just wildlife but people too.”

Head over to National Geographic here to see the rest of the magnificent photo gallery, photos taken by Klaus Nigge. The text in italics are from the accompanying article “Lord of the Forest” by Mel White, here. Go.

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Negros Bleeding-heart

Figure 1. The Negros Bleeding-heart.

Aside from the elusive Negros Fruit dove (Ptilinopus arcanus), which has not been sighted since its first discovery in 1953, another species bearing the name Negros on its common name is a facing severe threat of extinction in the wild, and this is the Negros Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba keayi). This beautiful and colorful species is already included in the list of globally threatened species classified as critically endangered, which means its population and distribution are getting limited and it is already highly susceptible to extinction. Before its discovery in Panay in 1997, the Negros Bleeding-heart was only known to exist in Negros Island and nowhere else in the world.

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Several newspapers yesterday featured photos of exotic birds intercepted by authorities in Davao City. The Philippine Daily Inquirer showed photos of a cageful of sulfur crested cockatoos and one black palm cockatoo, while Manila Standard Today and The Daily Tribune featured photos of rainbow lorikeets (scanned photo from Manila Standard below, please correct me if I’m wrong on the bird ID). There was no full story accompanying the photos, but the captions said that the birds are scheduled to be put to sleep as a precautionary measure against bird flu. The country remains to be one of the bird flu-free countries in Asia, the papers add.

rainbow-lorikeets-mst-07-10-07.jpg

image scanned from Manila Standard Today, Front Page, July 10, 2007

It’s a good thing, of course, that the country remains free of bird flu, and that the authorities are apparently implementing measures to keep it that way, including being on the watch for smuggled birds. It’s a relief all around, and plus points for the diligent authorities.

However, since this is a biodiversity blog, let’s try to see if from the birds’ point of view, shall we? The birds, who were just minding their own business, were captured from the forest and smuggled into another country, only to be killed because they might be carriers of a deadly disease (They were obviously captured from the wild and not bred in captivity, because if they were they would have come with the proper papers and bred in the proper conditions, thereby eliminating the fear that they were contaminated with the bird flu virus). Now whoever smuggled them in surely lost money and would have to recoup by bringing in more birds the next time, maybe when the bird flu alert has gone down and the wildlife monitoring has relaxed. Into the forest the trappers will go once again, capturing birds, depleting precious populations, putting together a shipment which may or may not end up being scheduled for termination.

On the other hand, if not for the bird flu scare, those birds would probably have slipped through the authorities and ended up for sale in Cartimar or by a roadside somewhere. “Animal lovers” would coo at them and buy them, take them home and keep them in cages their entire lives. The birds would have escaped getting killed, but would have spent life in captivity.

Something is wrong with this picture.

 

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Social gatherings can be minefields of awkwardness for a Filipino birder because such occasions give rise to queries like “So what do you do on your spare time?” The trapped Filipino birder throws caution to the wind when he opts to respond: “That’s nice of you to ask. I look for forest birds.” To this, the inevitable response from a non-birding crowd is: “Oh.” Puzzled silence ensues.

Compare that to the reception an open-water diver gets when she says that she looks for sharks, sea turtles and the like: an awe-struck, “Oh, how exciting!” Sharks? Gasps from the audience. Sea turtles? The crowd goes wild.

I’ve since come to grips with the facts: scuba is just way more glamorous than birdwatching. It must be those body-hugging wetsuits. There’s no comparison. A generation of kids grew up dreaming to be Jacques-Yves Cousteau and get to explore the mysterious depths of the oceans. No one grew up wanting to be a famous birdwatcher like…like… My point exactly.

Sometimes, I get a reply to the effect of: “My neighbor has a talking myna. It’s hysterical. It knows all the swear words! You should see it.” If the person I am talking to is amiable enough, I try to steer the topic of conversation towards something that doesn’t involve bird cages and life-long captivity.

Once or twice, though, I get something along the likes of: “You’re a birdwatcher, do you see a lot of colorful birds?”

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