Anarchist Mangroves

Image

the fiddler crab concurs
that the mangrove is an anarchist,
perfect in its defiance
from that liminal place
between the land and the sea:
trunks bent close to the ground,
roots interlocked like arms in protest
in this creeping war against the tides.
when the sea appears to be winning,
a million middle fingers
shoots through mud,
growing leaves,
extending borders,
giving more life in time.

 

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Information Sharing on Primates

We started a Facebook sharing page, Resource Center for Philippine Primates, to gather information on primate conservation, ecology, and biology. The links posted will strive to share more about the primate species in the Philippines, long-tailed macaques and Philippine tarsiers, but will also include any interesting trivia that we can gather from the internet and academic journals. If you wish to know more about primates, please click below and like the page:

Resource Center for Philippine Primates

Thanks a lot for joining!

30-minute limit proposed for whale shark watching

News update regarding whale shark watching in Oslob from Cebu Daily News:

Cebu Daily News

A 1 p.m. curfew and a 30-minute time limit on whale shark watching in Oslob town, Cebu, are among several guidelines proposed by a technical working group (TWG) led by the Provincial Capitol.

The time limit will prevent stressing the marine animals, who have been getting intense public attention from tourists and local visitors since August last year.

The group headed by Provincial Board (PB) member Peter John Calderon said they will meet before month’s end to finalize the draft guidelines.

The TWG is composed of Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren, PB member Wilfredo Caminero, the Whale Shark Watchers Organization, Provincial Veterinarian Dr. Rose Marie Vincoy and Provincial Legal Officer lawyer Marino Martinquilla.

Under an Oslob municipal ordinance, only an accredited group will be allowed to ferry tourists to the site where the whale sharks gather.

A designated whale shark watching area was also in place with buoys within the municipal…

View original post 173 more words

Whale Shark Reply

The previous blog has apparently ruffled some feathers. A blog of course is not a scholarly article and need not be peppered with citations. It is an opinion piece, a mere two cents in the ongoing conversation about the incident in Oslob.

In the Facebook page of the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, the admin wrote in reaction to the concluding paragraph of the previous blog:

We do not agree with this anthropocentric point of view, ecosystems and its components have existed for millions of years. Modern man only 200,000 years. The natural world cannot not (sic) evolve instantly and will not be able to adapt to what we are doing/have done to the planet in the past 100 years. As what has been said – we need nature more than she needs us. We need to be part of the solution to address the threats, not to be part of the problem.

The FB page admin clearly misunderstood the blog article’s point. What the blog stressed is the inseparability of our practices from what is currently happening to the natural environment. Our influence on every ecological niche is pervasive that we have become a force in the adaptation of other species.

As a consequence, we have been seeing species, both flora and fauna, devising new strategies to contend with the anthropogenic influences on their habitat. For example, tarsiers stalk freshly turned cornfields to forage on crickets and other insects exposed in the process of cultivation. There are a few other iconic examples: macaques raiding agricultural farms, polar bears and penguins losing their habitats because of the melting of glaciers, among others. Needless to say, even if the whale sharks are left alone in the middle of nowhere or dive deep into the depths of the ocean, they would still bear the mark of humanity’s impact on the planet (e.g., rising sea temperatures due to human-related factors,  mercury contamination, climate change, water pollution, etc.).

What is central for any substantial change to happen is to involve people by creating conservation programs that increase the stake of communities towards the species in question. Without creating that connection, communities could spell doom to any conservation program. The previous blog article thus explored the possibility of a community-driven and conservation practices-based feeding strategy for the whale sharks because of its potential for boosting reproductive success and increasing community participation. In concert with marine habitat enhancement activities, supplemental feeding could be redirected in such a way that the feeding will be beneficial (or has minimal impact) to the animals. By actively managing tourism (and pulling it closer to conservation), the activity has to be sensitive to the dangers of habituation and to the feeding ecology and social behavior of the whale sharks.

Feeding Whale Sharks: Much Ado About Butanding

PhotobucketCebu Daily News recently reported two injured whale sharks in the seas off a coastal barangay of Oslob, Cebu. One whale shark had a spear driven to its body and another got struck in the head by a motorboat’s propeller. The incident had drawn widespread condemnation from all sectors of Cebuano society. A local officer of the World Wildlife Fund laid the blame on the “domestication” of the whale sharks or butanding as the reason for the incident and thus called for the stopping of whale shark-feeding activities due to its effect on the species’ “natural hunting and feeding patterns.”

The risk that habituation presents is troubling. Once animals are habituated, they drop their guard and are more vulnerable to a wide range of human activities. According to Mark Orams (2002:285):

An animal has few cues about whether a human approaching it has good or bad intentions and, unfortunately, not all humans are wildlife lovers.

…(A)nimals that become accustomed to receiving food from people tend to frequent areas where there is a lot of human activity. These areas tend to present greater risks to animals that are not adapted to avoid such things as cars, boats and aeroplanes.

It is in a wild animal’s best interest therefore, for them to remain wary of people. Of course, when they are being regularly provisioned with food they lose this wariness, they become habituated to human contact and, as a result, they are at greater risk of injury from someone who wished to do them harm.

Some experts posit that dependence on human-sourced food reduces the chances of a species to survive in the wild. Species that are heavily dependent lose the skills needed in the search and pursuit of prey and may die if supplemental feeding is stopped. Although the literature on whale sharks is silent on this topic, I think that the volume of a whale shark’s food requirement is too high to be completely dependent on hand-feeding. For the whale sharks, people are alternative food sources–one among many in a whale shark’s array of foraging strategies. Similar to the fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and the dolphins frequenting Australian tourist spots,  the whale sharks might also have retained their foraging skills despite getting human-sourced food from tourists.

PhotobucketSo, should the municipality of Oslob continue with the practice of whale-shark feeding? The typical knee-jerk reaction is to implement a total ban and just let the animals be “wild and free.” Aside from the obvious challenges of enforcement, this would also set back the gains of many NGOs that encourage fishers to shift from exploitative fishing to sustainable wildlife tourism. Historically, southern Cebu was the seat of commercial fishing in the Visayas, renowned in the past for the destructive muroami fishing technique. It is therefore imperative that communities and fishers in Oslob reexamine their relationship with the sea and allow them to explore alternative connections with the marine fauna and flora.

The municipality of Oslob should also learn from the practices of institutions involved in endangered species conservation, where supplemental feeding is a cornerstone activity in population recovery strategies. If done properly, food provisioning could help increase a species’ reproductive success (i.e., although no specific studies have been conducted on supplemental feeding and its impact on whale shark population, i think it’s worth a try). The Philippine Tarsier Foundation, for example, conduct habitat enhancement activities to increase tarsier prey population. In Africa, “vulture restaurants” have been opened up in various sites to extend the chances of population recovery for critically-endangered birds (see TIME article). Perhaps, the propensity of tourists and tour guides to feed whale sharks can be redirected to boost breeding and reproduction albeit in a controlled and carefully-managed setting (i.e. sensitive to the dangers that habituation may pose to the animals).

People are part of the natural environment. We shape and influence the environment around us and thereby present challenges to other species. Every habitat, migration route, ecological niche bear a mark of humanity’s impact (e.g., from climate change to predatory fishing). We are the ‘facts of life’ that other species learn to negotiate and adapt. The problem with a total ban (i.e., “of leaving animals alone”) is the implicit assumption that we can separate ourselves from the lives of other species. We are part of every species’ reality and the primary driving force in their survival or extinction.

Also posted also in Anthropology Corner.

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Orams, Mark B.  Feeding wildlife as a tourism attraction: a review of issues and impacts in Tourism Management 23 (2002) 281-293.

IPS Seeks Applicants for the IPS Cancun Pre-Congress Training Program

Here’s a reblog of the International Primatological Society’s announcement. Time Travelling is hoping that Filipino primate conservationists and primatologists will grab this training opportunity. From the IPS website:

IPS is pleased to announce that an IPS Pre-Congress Training Program (PCTP) is being organized for the 2012 congress. The PCTP will be held in Cancun, from 9-12 August 2012. A select number of primatologists from primate habitat countries will be offered support to enable them to participate in this Training Program, together with a small number of primatologists serving as guest lecturers and mentors.

This 3.5 day event includes presentations on a variety of top conservation topics – such as habitat fragmentation, disease transmission, primate tourism, human-wildlife conflict, etc. We include case study analysis, problem solving tasks, and discussion sessions that allow participants to share their own experiences and compare notes with colleagues working around the world. This is a valuable opportunity for new primate conservationists to network with others – and learn some of the most important methods and strategies used in primate conservation today.

Eligible applicants include citizens of primate habitat countries who work with primate conservation and are relatively new to their professions. We especially seek applicants for whom this training will play an important role in their education and career. (Note: participants of previous IPS Pre-Congress Training Programs are not eligible to apply.)

The deadline for applications is December 15, 2011. Applications will be accepted only by email and will consist of a completed form that includes a 500-word summary of your reasons for wanting to attend the PCTP and a short resume (CV). For more information, please contact Dr. Janette Wallis: email: janettewallis at sbcglobal.net

Application Form