Around ₱1.1 million has been raised by some 150 individuals and institutions to help Mindoro’s tamaraw rangers and forest wardens, many of whom lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

rangers - P1.1 million raised to help Mindoro’s tamaraw rangers, forest rangers
TCP rangers monitor Mindoro’s Iglit-Baco Natural Park
(James Slade via Global Wildlife Conservation / MANILA BULLETIN)

The funds will be turned over on Oct. 29 to cap off the Tamaraw Month, celebrated in the Philippines every October.

“The Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) and Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (MIBNP) are indebted to those who have and will continue to help us,” said TCP head Neil Anthony del Mundo.

“The assistance to be given to our wardens and rangers will go a long way in keeping both our tamaraws and protected areas safe,” he added.

Since March, 2020, most of the Philippines has been under General or Enhanced Community Quarantine, which led to the temporary closure of the country’s national parks to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

This left Mindoro’s Iglit-Baco Natural Park with little funding, cutting off the sole source of income for 32 wardens and one ranger, all members of Mindoro’s indigenous Taw’buid, Buid and Iraya tribes.

Only 23 TCP rangers and three wardens are currently patrolling a core area of 2,500 hectares inside the 106,655-hectare Iglit-Baco park, which hosts at least 480 of the world’s last 600 tamaraws.

An online fundraising campaign, #TogetherforTamaraws, was launched in July to provide conservation frontliners their wages, supplies, and equipment so they can continue protecting the tamaraw.

It is led by the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) project under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BM) and DENR-MIMAROPA (Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan).

Also in July, the Philippine Parks & Biodiversity NGO further created the Tamaraw Society for its 20 for 20 campaign where they called on 20 organizations or individuals to pledge or raise ₱20,000 each.

“These creative fundraising efforts show how the worst times can also bring out the best in people,” says DENR-BMB Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon.

“Our Bayanihan Spirit lives on through crowdfunding. We thank our partners, donors and contributors in proving how everyone can do their part for conservation,” he added.

DENR-BMB, UNDP-BIOFIN and its allies will continue the fundraising efforts for Mindoro’s tamaraw rangers. Individuals who wish to donate can click bit.ly/TogetherForTamaraws or email biofin.ph@undp.org while those who wish to join the Tamaraw Society can click bit.ly/TamarawSociety.

“This is a critical time for Philippine biodiversity,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Enrico Gaveglia.

“With Philippine protected areas undermanned because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of plant and animal poaching is at its highest. We need to do our part in ensuring that our conservation frontliners have the means and capacity to continue their mission. After all, if not for the TCP and MIBNP rangers working hand in hand with the Mangyan communities of Mts. Iglit-Baco, the tamaraw might well be extinct,” Gaveglia also said.

The past few months have been a challenging time for tamaraw conservation in the country.

In September, MIBNP and TCP rangers successfully intercepted and caught three tamaraw poachers drying meat inside the park. The poachers later escaped and remain at large.

Kalibasib, the world’s only captive-bred tamaraw, also died last Oct. 10 after 21 years in captivity.

Tamaraw populations today are fragmented, with only four remaining populations spread throughout Mindoro.

From an estimated 10,000 heads in 1900, tamaraw numbers plummeted to under 100 heads in 1969.

Conservation efforts have paid off tremendously, helping the population recover to over 600.

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