Mambukal Resort: A wildlife sanctuary, too

The provincial government of Negros Occidental recently announced the “rebranding” of the Mambukal Mountain Resort in Murcia to become a conservation site, too, making it the Mambukal Mountain Resort and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Provincial administrator Ray Diaz made the disclosure citing that such a move is in line with the commitment of Governor Bong Lacson in the protection of wildlife and environment, in general. Lacson is expected to sign an executive order for the purpose, Diaz added.

Provincial tourism officer Cherly Decena said the “rebranding” of Mambukal is aimed to make the presence of the different wildlife species in the resort as another attraction, while contributing at the same time to the public awareness on biodiversity conservation. Based on the joint survey of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc., Provincial Environment Management Office, and Mambukal, the resort is hosting numerous flora and fauna since it still has an intact forest cover. Mambukal, located at the foot slope of the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, serves as a corridor for the movement of wildlife in adjacent forested areas.

This initiative is another milestone on conservation in Negros Occidental, and most likely, in the entire country as well. Combining wildlife protection and tourism development is no easy task, as it involves and requires careful planning. There are only a few tourism destinations in the country known to me that are using wildlife as an added attraction, and most of these sites are within protected areas. Some of the most popular tourism sites outside protected areas that banner wildlife are in Donsol, Sorsogon, for the butanding (whale shark) watching, while Bohol is now associated with tarsiers. Dolphin watching in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, is now getting popular, too.

The Philippine eagle is a tourism flagship species in Davao, but it is difficult to see the species in the wild. The Philippine Eagle Foundation, based in Davao, has a captive breeding program for this national bird and it is open to the public, although regulated. The crocodile farm at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center in Puerto Princesa offers public viewing of both salt water and freshwater crocodiles. In Bacolod City, there is the Negros Forest Park-Biodiversity Conservation Center at the Capitol Compound where numerous endemic species in captive breeding could be seen.

In Mambukal, however, wildlife can be found entirely in the wild. Aside from flying foxes, including the threatened Golden-crowned flying foxes and Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat, at least 140 bird species were recorded in the area, according to the PhilBio report. This makes Mambukal an ideal site for bird watching, which has already gained the attention of some local and international birders. Birds found in this new wildlife sanctuary include the threatened and endemic White-throated jungle flycatcher and Flame-templed babbler. The PhilBio claims these two species might be residents of the MKNP but they occasionally visit Mambukal. The Visayan tarictic hornbill has also been spotted in this provincial government owned and operated resort.

Mambukal has the remaining lowland dipterocarp forest, which is already limited in Negros Occidental. This is in good condition for visitors, especially children, to see and appreciate our natural forest and the species thriving in this ecosystem. At least 10 threatened tree species are found in the resort, including mother trees, with diameter-at-breast height ranging from 65 to 110 centimeters, as presented by Lisa Paguntalan, executive director of the PhilBio. The dominating species in the area are the rare species of White lauaan, almaciga, apitong, and ipil, all of these are classified as threatened species.

Aside from bats, other mammalian species occurring in Mambukal are leopard cat, civet, rodent, and monkey. In addition, the presence of various species of reptiles have been noted in the site, such as snakes, vipers, skinks, geckos, and lizards, with snake as the most diverse comprising nine species, the PhilBio further reported. Frogs dominate the amphibian population in Mambukal, five species of which are endemic to the Philippines. One threatened species of frog, the Visayan fanged frog, was similarly recorded in the area.

Based on the PhilBio’s assessment, the high diversity of reptiles and the presence of endemic forest and stream frogs makes Mambukal an important refuge of herbs, while serving at the same time as food sources of other species, especially birds. A breeding pair of Philippine Serpent eagles, which are usually found hovering around the resort, consumes the noticeable numbers of snakes in Mambukal. The variety of skinks is also an important diet for kingfishers.

With all these natural features, it is only appropriate that Mambukal Resort becomes a wildlife sanctuary, and I fully agree with the direction being pushed by the provincial government. With the presence of assorted species of flora and

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