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The ‘Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme (PBCP)’ was initiated in April 1990 with a wide ranging field status survey of Philippine cloud rats (Crateromys and Phloeomys spp.), funded by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL, UK), and the development of the Philippine Spotted Deer Conservation Programme (PSDCP). The latter project was conducted under the aegis of a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), between the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR, Govt. of the Philippines) and the Mulhouse Zoo (France). This MOA was the first of its kind in the Philippines and it introduced a number of important protocols relating to the creation of local wildlife rescue and breeding centres, common ownership of breeding stocks of threatened species, maintenance of proper stock records and other, essentially collaborative, initiatives.
Although formally inaugurated in 1990, the PSDCP was conceived in 1985, following a distribution-wide status survey, which revealed that the species was already extinct over at least 95% of its former range and was unlikely to survive in the few remaining forest fragments on Panay and Negros unless urgent was taken to enhance protection of these areas and curb hunting pressure. These findings resulted in the formulation of recommendations to establish a new national park in Panay and to set-up a properly structured collaborative breeding programme as an insurance against the species’ extinction in the wild state. In 1987, funding assistance from the Zoologischer Garten Berlin enabled the first faunal survey of the Panay Mountains and the preparation of a preliminary management for the proposed new Panay Mountains National Park. However, efforts to establish the proposed breeding programme were not realised until 1990, when the first MOA was signed and two local rescue and breeding centres for this species were set-up, one each on Negros and Panay; whereas little effective progress was made on the infinitely more important priority of establishing the new national park owing to (the seemingly endless, and forever worsening, complexities of the Philippine Government’s legal requirements, despite the expenditures of considerable resources and the best efforts of key regional DENR personnel. It is surely the case that the worst obstacle anyone has to face in delivering universally agreed conservation objectives are national government agencies mandated to achieve the same goals.
In any event, and despite these hindrances, almost all other projects were developed in close association with the Zoologische Gesellschaft fuer Arten- und Populationsschutz e.V. (Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations or ZGAP, Germany), with core funding support from Mulhouse Zoo and the Zoological Society of San Diego; the latter becoming the co-signatory in 1992 of two further MOAs with the DENR for the development of similar conservation recovery programmes for the Calamian Deer (Cervus calamianensis) and the Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons).
During this period, diverse assistance was also provided to several other agencies interested in developing similar conservation or applied research programmes for other species and/or areas. These included: DENR-PAWB (Tamaraw), Lubee Foundation/Silliman University (Fruit Bats), Espace Zoologique (Philippine Cockatoo) and later (in 1994 and 1995) Melbourne Zoo (Philippine Crocodile) and Ruhr-Univeristat Bochum (ecology and conservation of forest birds). Similar assistance was also provided to various university expeditions from abroad (e.g. Cambridge University Rainforest Expedition in 1991, Aberdeen University West Visayas Expedition in 1995, and Oxford University Polillo Islands Expeditions in 1999-2002) and for numerous studies and surveys conducted by local biologists. Several local species’ and regional biodiversity conservation workshops and teacher’s training courses were also organised, along with a West Visayas Regional Conservation Education Programme, and the widely acclaimed ‘Only in the Philippines…’ series of conservation-education posters, of which 15 different posters and tens of thousands of copies were produced and distributed throughout the country.
In the interim, the rapid development of the Philippine Spotted Deer and Visayan Warty Pig programmes prompted their notional separation into ‘Negros’ and ‘Panay’ programmes, with Melbourne Zoo coming in as additional MOA signatory party for the Panay deer and Rotterdam Zoo for Negros warty pigs; whilst various other conservation activities were focused on an increasing variety of threatened species and species’ groups. These include the: ‘Philippine Cloud Rats Conservation Programme’ (with Zoologischer Garten Berlin and the Zoological Society of London), ‘Philippine Owls Conservation Programme’ (with the World Owl Trust and the U.K. Owl-TAG), ‘Philippine Hornbills Conservation Programme‘ (with Vogelpark Avifauna and the North of England Zoological Society), ‘Philippine Bleeding-heart Pigeons Conservation Programme’ (with Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society) and, most recently, the ‘Philippine Threatened Monitor and Sailfin Lizards Conservation Programme’ (with Cincinnati Zoo). All of these Programmes have been initiated on the basis of recommendations arising from earlier, wide-ranging surveys and conducted under the aegis of covering MOAs with the DENR.
From its inception in April 1990 until early 1998, the PBCP was orchestrated and managed under the auspices of these MOAs and related (if informal) partnerships with other international agencies (e.g. ZGAP, ZGB, ZZSD) and relevant local implementing agencies (e.g. CBCFI, SU-CenTrop, NFEFI, etc.). From 1st February 1998, the PBCP was more formally managed under the auspices of FFI, and jointly managed in collaboration with the PBCFI following SEC registration of both FFI and PBCFI in May 2006. From 1st October 2008, PBCFI assumed primary responsibility for the continued development of the PBCP, in collaboration with its existing international and local implementing partner agencies.