Whispers from the Wild

By Jurjen Sublino and Arthur Soriano Jr.

Mount Pulag in Kabayan, Benguet, boasts not only of its mossy forest and spectacular sunrise view. It is also home to various flora and fauna that flourishes through its mountains. There’s more.

In 2015, a breakthrough was reported when a species that was declared extinct for a hundred years, was found in this rich mountain of Pulag. This species is called the silver earth rat.

This rat is as small as human finger, ranging from 239 to 299 millimeters. Accounts say, that hundred of years go, this unique kind of rat disappeared from its original habitat at the mossy forest of Mt. Data in Mt. Province. In 2015, Dr. Lawrence R. Heaney a curator and head of the Division of mammals at the Field museum in Chicago and an author of books on island biodiversity discovered the rat in Mt. Pulag.

In his book titled, “The mammals of Luzon Island”, the Chrotomy Silaceus or the silver earth rat has a dark gray color, medium size, stout body with a thick tail that is shorter than its head and body, small eyes, elongated snout, and a soft fur. It is usually found in the Highlands of Northern Luzon, specifically on the Central Cordilleras.

This species is not just a mere tiny creature. It has valuable contribution among farmers, too. It stays near farms and feed from earthworms and other soil invertebrates by digging in organic materials such as leaf-litter and humus, hence it helps in cultivating a healthy soil. It’s extinction for years is believed to be caused by gradual destruction of its their natural habitat.

The destruction of forests exists up to this time causing damage to animals in their natural habitat. In fact, records show that not only was the silver earth rat that became extinct or endangered in the mountains of Cordillera. Recent reports say that even the cloud rat, Philippine eagle, fishes such as the mud fish and even the fern trees are slowly going into extinction.

Their natural habitats were destroyed forcing them to move to other places just to look for food. Unfortunately, when they go near communities, people would hunt them either as pet or for business. Which must stop because they are not for commercial purposes. The ferns are not an exemption. They are being exposed and are made into souvenirs, sold in the different markets in Baguio City and other nearby areas.

According to Senior Ecosystem Management specialist Linda Claire Pawed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR CAR), the population of the surrendered wildlife to the DENR Rescue Center is becoming alarming not just because of their increasing number but also because of the situation of the species when surrendered.

Most of them accordingly, are not in good condition. They are either wounded or almost killed while some even die. These are because they are either considered as pets for a long time by people and surrendered to them if they can’t take care of it anymore. Common of these species for the past few years, are namely the grass owl, hawks, serpent eagles, and snakes.

These animals were taken care of in the rescue center for several days depending on their capability to recover. Sometimes it would take a long time because they are in serious situations like broken wings, broken legs and even having pellets inside their body. After they are healed their condition made better, they are released to the wild where they belong.

Moreover, steps were taken by the DENR in order to protect the wildlife aside from having their rescue center that could be contacted through the number 442-4531. They endeavor for certain areas to be declared as of protected areas.  To protect the species’ habitat such as the rivers, mountains, forests among others.

The Republic Act 9147 or the so called “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act” of 2001 is one of the laws that governs wildlife protection. It aims to conserve and protect wildlife species and their habitats to promote ecological balance and enhance biological diversity.

Moreover, it also aims to regulate the collection and trade of wildlife, pursue interests and initiate or support scientific studies on the conservation of biological diversity. In other words, it is in place solely for the protection of the wild and their habitat.

Pawid reminds the public not to hunt these animals and avoid using air guns and slingshots or tirador. Instead help in protecting them for a balanced ecosystem. She reiterated that these species are not for commercial purposes.

“When it comes to the plants like the ferns and orchids they are best to be in their original place” Pawid said.

Silver Bataclao from Buguias, Benguet said she is aware of the endangered animals specially the giant eel that are usually seen in Mt. Province. She said that their extinction could be prevented if authorities would put their focus on protecting and propagating these species first rather than promoting tourism to the detriment of the wildlife.

“The wild belongs to the wild. They are part of the ecosystem and helps in balancing the ecology. When they are killed, it can contribute to climate change. The cycle must stop. We must be conscious of their existence because they also have a purpose in our environment,” said Pawid. Let us protect and conserve the wild,” Pawid ended.

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