It is a fact and most of us know that we have a dwindling natural resources as economic development pushes year by year. Before the coming of the Spaniards, the Philippine archipelago has 90% forest cover on its 300,000 km2 of land. But now, the natural vegetation cover barely reach 10% of the total land area.
As the population increases and the demand for supply of food and other necessities such as materials for new innovations, the natural resources particularly the forest cover continue to decline each year by thousands of hectares.
One impact of the decline in forest cover is the disturbance and loss of habitat for most of the terrestrial animals. One example is the Mindanao Wrinkled Hornbill.
Damn If I Do, Damn If I Don't!
I made an encounter of this endemic bird species a couple years ago when a tribesman came over and asked me to buy the good he was carrying. I have no idea that it was a newly hatched hornbill (Aceros leucocephalus) hidden inside his basket. The man was selling this poor bird for Php1000.00. I was placed on a difficult situation to decide on the future of the poor bird.
As much as I care for the survival of the hornbill, I know that in the care of man, the survival is near zero and much more if it has to be returned to the wild.
My final decision? I DIDN’T BUY IT! Did I report it to authority? A BIG FAT NO! Why? My reason was, if the man will be put into prison or at least hunted by the authority, his family will go hungry and his children will be pushed to do the same. And beside, the government agency that supposedly implementing the law in the vicinity was barely felt and no alternative livelihood assistance are given to the poor indigenous people to forbid them from utilizing the forest resources that was handed to them by their ancestors.
I have lived and immersed well in this poor community and I have my sympathy to the locals of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur as it is undeniable that poverty hunts every member of their tribe. Families depend alone on the natural resources to sustain their daily needs. Unless televised, government assistance and services barely reach the isolated communities forcing the indigenous people to dwell on wildlife trade.
This particular bird breeds only once a year and requires good forest-covered environment to maintain its population. But if its demise means life for another life, I will account it to the natural way of survival of the fittest.
JUDGE ME IF YOU WANT! But tell me, if you were placed in the same situation, what would be your action?