Haribon - A symbol for conservation of natural resources

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces -

Tomorrow we celebrate World Environment Day. Spearheaded by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the day’s purpose is to continue stimulating awareness among all countries of the critical situation that our environment is now in. The theme for this year is “Your Planet Needs You — Unite to Combat Climate Change”.      

Aside from the overarching goal for countries to reduce carbon emissions mainly by planting more trees, we must also focus on maintaining the world’s biodiversity which is an essential part of the world environment and ecology systems. So, our big problem is not only the negative effects of climate change on our environment. Our biodiversity, which is made up of the number, variety and variability of living organisms in the ecosystem, is continuously threatened, some even facing possible loss and extinction.   This results from environment degradation caused by too much pollution in the air and waters, the cutting of trees, habitat destruction due to increased human habitation of the hinterlands, hunting and other human activities, aside from the ill effects on the environment as climate becomes more severe and changes patterns. Mostly, it is man’s irresponsible and abusive practices as he seeks to improve his quality of life that consequently leads to the destruction of our environment and loss of biodiversity.          

The world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species is monitored closely by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). It comes out with a Red List each year to assess the extinction risk of the world’s species. The 2008 Red List released in October 2008 has confirmed an “extinction crisis, with almost one in four mammals at the risk of disappearing forever”. The study shows that at least 1,141 of the 5,847 mammals on earth are threatened with extinction. Overall, more than one-third of 41,000 species surveyed are facing extinction; specifically, a quarter of all mammals, one out of eight birds, one out of three amphibians and 70 percent of plants. In Asia and the Pacific alone, it was reported that about 70 percent of known species in the region are endangered.    

What has become a symbol of conservation efforts in the country and a rallying factor in various local and international efforts to preserve the environment is the Philippine Eagle, the Philippine national bird. Now, Haring Ibon (or Haribon for short, meaning ”king of the birds”) is classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, and there is a high possibility they can become extinct in 10 to 15 years if their population continues to decrease. In fact, reports show that there are only 500 or less pairs left in the forests. 

World Environment Day coincides with the commemoration of Philippine Eagle Week from June 4 to 10, where mainly in Davao City, various activities are held to draw attention and support on the Philippine Eagle Conservation Program. We take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), the only action-oriented organization in the country dedicated to saving the Philippine Eagle and its habitat. I am introduced to the importance of PEF’s work by a good friend and colleague, the late James Marsh Thomson, a former US Peace Corps Volunteer who had dedicated most of his life to helping so many people aside from raising the Philippines’ greatest Olympic swimming champion, Akiko and two other children, Julia and Joshua, with his wife Hiroko. Haribon provides an important signal and warning that if our forests continue to be denuded and exploited, not only is the environment and its natural resources destroyed, even human beings and other living creatures face the threat of extinction in the long run.

We want a living planet, not a desolate one. In our own small ways, remember to nourish life and take care of the environment and everything in it.

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