Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation
To breed and promote the survival of Philippine spotted deer in the Philippines
The Philippine Spotted Deer, Cervus alfredi, owes its scientific name to Duke Alfred of Edinburgh, who lived in the 19th century. While a number of deer subspecies are equally endangered, unfortunately this noble connection didn’t prevent it from becoming one of the globally most threatened deer species today. Originally occurring on all five of the larger Central Visayan Islands in the Philippines, it is now extinct on three of them, whereas on the remaining two islands (Panay and Negros) its forest habitat has declined by more than 95 %. Furthemore, the little remaining habitat is heavily fragmented and the last few existing subpopulations of the species are still subject to heavy poaching pressure. Not surprisingly, therefore, IUCN lists the species as Critically Endangered.
In order to save the species from extinction, the Mulhouse Zoo (France) a member institution of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, in cooperation with the German conservation organization Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz, ZGAP (Munich, Germany) and William Oliver of Fauna & Flora International, FFI (Cambridge, UK) initiated a conservation programme, which has, as one component, a breeding programme in the Philippines and in Europe.
A first group of Philippine spotted deer of Negros origin arrived in Mulhouse from the Philippines in 1990. The animals settled in well and soon started to breed. In 2001, after over two years of planning, a second group of animals, unrelated to the animals that arrived in 1990, was imported to Europe. By early 2004, 12 zoos in France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria have become partners in the programme. The ex situ population in Europe has increased to 80 animals to date. Besides these, there is a further captive stock of Philippine spotted deer originating from the island of Panay, which is managed in zoos in the United States and Australia.
An integral component of the programme is financial and scientific support to - by now three - local rescue and breeding centers in the Philippines. These are the ‘Center for Studies in Tropical Conservation (CENTROP)’ of the Silliman University, Dumagete City, the ‘Biodiversity Conservation Center of the Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation Inc. (BCC/NFEFI)’, Bacolod City and the ‘Mari-it Conservation Park at the College of Agriculture and Forestry of the West Visayas State University (CAF/WVSU)’ in Lambunao, Iloilo, Panay. Colonies of the deer were founded with specimens rescued, confiscated and donated. Under the leadership of William Oliver and with the continuing support received from all zoos participating in the breeding program, from various conservation organizations and from other sources, the three local 'rescue centers' have evolved, over the last 15 years into leading local conservation centers, which :
- continue to function as rescue and breeding center for endangered Philippine wildlife species;
- provide employment for Filipinos with an interest in conservation;
- function as conservation education centers.
The captive deer population in the Philippines was reported as 35-30 animals by the beginning of 2004.
As the largest mammal species on these islands, the Philippine spotted deer plays an important role as ambassador for the alarming situation of the entire island ecosystem. The massive habitat destruction does not just affect the wildlife. Nowadays the local population also feel the effects of erosion caused by the continuing massive forest loss, for example in the increasing number of scree landslides and shortage of water. Effective conservation measures for the Philippine spotted deer do not only target species conservation, but will help to improve the local population’s standard of living at the same time. Therefore, besides the captive breeding, this project puts further main emphasis on the following activities:
- lobbying for the planned “Panay Mountains National Park”, with an area of 60,000 hectares on the island of Panay;
- intensify information campaigns and environmental education of the local population in the conservation centers;
- train Philippine biologists and veterinarians on site, to enable local specialists to take on jobs that will be established as part of the conservation project;
- test ecologically sound cultivation methods as alternative income sources.
The Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Program is now at a critical point: with 12 zoos in Europe now participating and the 'new’ animals imported in 2001 helping adding more genetic diversity to the gene pool, the program urgently needs more partner zoos. It would be most desirable to find more partners for the programme.
WAZA Conservation Project 04012 is jointly operated by the Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz e.V. (ZGAP), Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales (CEPA), Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the zoos of Vienna (Austria), Decin (Czech Republic), Mulhouse Zoo (France), Berlin, Chemnitz, Landau, Münster (Germany), La Torbiera, Parco Natura Viva Bussolegno (Italy), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Poznan (Poland), and Chester (United Kingdom) in collaboration with the Philippines Nature Conservation Authority (DENR). Supported by the Stiftung Artenschutz ("Species Conservation Foundation"). The Panay project is supported, among others, by the Melbourne Zoo (Australia).
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