• Rose Dela Cruz

A Safe Space for Endangered Species

I love animals. They come in all sorts of forms -- each one unique, adorable, or quirky in their own way, which brings me joy and wonder. I believe that they are also important; although sometimes indirectly, we benefit so much from the processes that occur in the ecosystem that they are part of. Even krill, small as they are, can impact climate change!

I also believe that art is a great way to give the spotlight on critically endangered species that may not be widely well-known. For instance, pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in the world, and thus are at risk for extinction.

Through this post, I’ll introduce the critically endangered animals that are featured in my painting, "Curious, Amazed, Living in the Moment", starting right meow! Additionally, you may also visit the conservation groups mentioned here to find out more about their work and donate directly. You can also buy prints of this painting in my shop; a portion of the funds are also donated!

1. Tamaraw

They are found in the island of Mindoro, in the Visayas region. The smaller cousin of the carabao (also called Mindoro Dwarf Buffalo, lol), but lives mostly in the wild. Their numbers are dwindling due to logging, illegal hunting, and diseases from livestock that were introduced from resettlers. Organizations such as the Tamaraw Conservation Program has Support-A-Ranger to help the brave people who wholeheartedly offer their service to protect the tamaraws.

2. Binturong or Bearcat

Binturong (bearcat) photos courtesy of Ms. Pauline Geyser of ABConservation.org. Thank you so much!

The Bearcats ('Binturong’) are much smaller than they look (more like the size of a wolverine). I’ve also read that they smell like popcorn (!) and hiss like a cat. They thrive in canopies of primary/undisturbed forests, where they eat fruits, insects, eggs, and shoots.

The sad thing is that bearcats are hunted for the illegal pet trade, sold as delicacies and some weirdass medicine in other countries. The people of Palawan (where the bearcats are found) have designated 100,000 acres of pristine forest called the Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat. With the help of the communities of the Batak tribe (a hunter-gatherer community that relies on the forest for their livelihood) and conservation groups such as ABConservation.org, they are helping protect the bearcats.

3. Visayan Warty Pig

Found in multiple islands in the Visayas region and are smaller than domestic pigs. They’re given this name due to the visible warts in their skin. (Not quite visible here). It’s said that it helps protect them from the tusks of rival pigs.

They are considered extinct in 95% of their natural habitat. The clearing of forests to be used for agriculture is one factor. Also, they’re omnivores and have the propensity to feed on crops, so they’re hunted by farmers as pests.

4. Palawan Pangolin

Photos courtesy of Dr. Sabine Schoppe, director of Palawan Freshwater Turtle and Palawan Pangolin Conservation Programs at Katala Foundation Inc.

“Mabuhay! I’m called the Palawan Pangolin. I live in Palawan, an island in the southwestern region that is rich with biodiversity. Termites are my favorite food, so I dig the ground with my claws A LOT! They try to bite me and my cute face, but they can’t because of my scales! Also, my eyelids are pretty strong.

Sadly, my kind is being hunted because we’re sold as pets illegally, or as delicacies to show off social status, and our scales are used for medicine even though there are legal, cheaper and more efficient alternatives. Please check out the Katala Foundation for info on how you can help!”

5. Forest Turtle

“I’m kinda shy but, ok. Hi. I’m a Forest turtle from Leyte, an island in the Philippines. I’m also called the Philippine Pond Turtle. Some of my friends and relatives live in Palawan. We live in ponds in swampy forests. I’m small, so my friend monkey here set up this chair for me so that I can see the game better. Anyway. We like to eat small fish, shrimp, algae, and aquatic plants.

"We’re protected by the law, but like the Pangolin we’re still under threat from poachers who sell us at black markets. So we’re one of the most endangered animals in the Philippines. Luckily, there are conservation groups that help rescue us from smugglers. If you can help them by donating or volunteering, that would make us very happy!”

6. Golden Crowned Flying Fox (left), and 7. Tarsier (right)

Hallo there. I'm a bat, but in particular, I’m called a Golden Crowned Flying Fox. I’m one of the biggest bats in the world - with a wingspan of about 5.6 inches! I like eating fruits, particularly figs! We’re nocturnal, which means we’re awake at night. But during the day, some pesky tourists would come and disturb us during the day. PLEASE STOP. How do you like being woken up when you’re asleep??

Our numbers are declining because we’re being hunted for bushmeat. Illegal hunters would come to our roosts during the day. We’re also losing our homes due to deforestation.”

“Hi…I’m a Tarsier. We’re one of the smallest primates in the world (about 16cm - just a little bit bigger than your smartphone!). I know, my eyes are huge, but they’re closed during the day because I’m also nocturnal like the Golden-Crowned Flying Fox. So, if you see me sleeping, don’t disturb me please.

"I like eating insects, and I mostly hop and stay on tree branches. But because of deforestation, we’re losing our habitat. Trees are cut down for timber and the forests where we used to live in are converted into coffee plantations, grazing areas or mined. We don’t do well in captivity, it makes us feel very, very stressed. Please visit Endangered Species International to find out ways on how you can help!"

8. Rufous Hornbill (left), and 9. Ashy Thrush (right)

Rufous Hornbill photo (right) by Magalhães, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons.

“Hii! I’m the Rufous Hornbill. I’m also called Kalaw or Dulungan in the local language. Our species likes to talk a lot, so we’re quite noisy. We love eating fruits. We’re found in Luzon, as well as the Negros, Marinduque, Panay and other islands in the Visayas region.

We’re quite huge, and we grow up to about 25 inches. However, we only lay a few eggs and we’re hunted a lot, so our numbers are declining rapidly. Just like all of the other animals, we’re also losing our habitat to deforestation.

Currently, the Haribon Foundation in partnership with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, is helping us by through awareness programs with the local communities and training Wildlife Enforcement Officers. You can find out more info on how to help us here: Haribon’s Species of Hope program; call 911-6088 or email pm_ngcp@haribon.org.ph. By the way, August is Dulungan Month!”

“Hi! I’m the Ashy Thrush! I live in the Luzon region of the Philippines. We’re not found anywhere else. Not much is known about our species, but we’re also losing our homes due to deforestation.”

I hope you enjoyed getting to know these wonderful creatures. If you enjoyed this and want to help spread awareness, share this post with your family and friends!

Much love,