446 rare species of plants, animals found on Mt. Tapulao

12 Jul 2013

imageA spotted imperial pigeon. (Photo: The Philippine Star)

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines   – Experts found 304 species of plants and 142 species of animals, including rare and endangered ones, in Zambales’ Mt. Tapulao.

The discovery was the result of a nine-month exploration in the mountain by biologists and biodiversity experts from the University of the Philippines and Diliman Science Research Foundation.

The results of the study have prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to declare the mountain a national treasure trove as it warned poachers and encroachers against spoiling the natural habitat.

“The rodents Rhycomys tapulao and Apomys brownorum can only be found in Mt. Tapulao, and six other plant species that can only be found in Luzon,” DENR regional executive director Maximo Dichoso said.

Dichoso said of the 142 animal species found in Mt. Tapulao, 78 were endemic to the country. So were 41 of the 304 plant species.

“The UP findings confirmed earlier studies that Mt. Tapulao is a natural treasure trove for Central Luzon in terms of species richness and diversity. I call on the public to protect Mt. Tapulao and the adjoining forests from poaching and human encroachment,” he said.

The nine-month biodiversity study included various species of trees, vines, lianas, herbs, palms, mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles.

The study also established a new distribution record for the insectivorous bat species Myotis rufopictus (Orange-fingered myotis) and Desmalopex leucopterus (Mottled winged flying fox), Dichoso reported.

“Myotis rufopictus was found in the mountain at 1,820 meters above sea level and the Desmalopex leucopterus was found at 230 and 896 meters above sea level,” he said.

Dichoso noted that seven insectivorous bats were also recorded in the area, three of which are endemic to the Philippines  – the yellow-faced horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus virgo), the large-eared horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus philippinensis), and the orange-fingered myotis (Myotis rufopictus).

“Three bird species categorized as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were also found in Mt. Tapulao. These were the flame-breasted fruit dove (Ptilinopus  archei), Philippine eagle-owl (Bubo philippensis), and the ashy thrush (Zoothera cinerea),” he said.

Mt. Tapulao also harbors 14 plant species found in the DENR list of threatened species, with one timber species, Tristaniopsis decorticata, considered as critically endangered.

The mountain covers more than 17,000 hectares of forest stratified into four vegetation types that include lowland, montane, pine and mossy forests.

It rises to about 2,037 meters above sea level, and is considered the second tallest mountain in Luzon, next to Mt. Pulag in Benguet.

The mountain was named after the Sumatran Pine “tapulao” which is abundant in the Zambales mountain range.

Straddling the towns of Palauig, Iba and Masinloc in Zambales and parts of Tarlac, Mt. Tapulao is one of the key biodiversity areas and new protected areas models in the country under the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), which is funded by the Global Environmental Facility and the United Nations Development Program.

NewCAPP, a five-year project started in 2011, seeks to expand and strengthen the terrestrial protected area system in the country by developing new protected areas models managed by local government units, indigenous and local communities.

Rare bird species found in Ilocos

Meanwhile, another rare and vulnerable bird species – the spotted imperial pigeon – has found sanctuary in a northern town in Ilocos Norte, a bird conservation enthusiast reported yesterday.

Petrus Calope said the ducula carola is included in IUCN list of threatened species. He said the birds could attract international and local bird watchers to the province.

He said flocks of the pigeons regularly appear at the shoreline of Pasuquin, as he noted that when birdwatchers learned about it, Pasuquin became a busy town.

He said that in the ’80s there were 12 spotted imperial pigeon congregation sites in parts of Luzon, Mindoro and Mindanao but these have declined.

Calope, who introduced birdwatching in Ilocos Norte, said the species which lives in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, became rare in the 1990s.

He said a flock of 55 spotted imperial pigeons was seen recently by professional birdwatchers at their congregation sites in the coastal villages of Davila and Dilavo in Pasuquin.

He said they are puzzled by the birds’ regular migration to the two villages.

“If they need saltwater, they would have flocked in Laoag or Bacarra. There must be something in the shorelines of these two villages that attract them,” Calope said as he expressed belief that the visits are part of the birds’ preparation for the breeding season.

Calope expects international groups of bird watchers to visit the province next year to see the spotted imperial pigeons.

Earlier, birdwatchers were drawn to the province to see another bird species, the migratory great cormorant in Paoay Lake.   – Ding Cervantes with Teddy Molina (The Philippine Star)