We all know the Philippines has many threatened species. Exactly how threatened is often not realised, as on TV you are more likely to find a story about endangered tigers or panda bears. The truth is that, although those are certainly sad stories and in need of protection, there are species that are far more threatened, right here in the Philippines. Did you know that we also have our own Red list in the Philippines? Specifically for species and populations of flora and fauna in our country.
The updated national red list
The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recently updated the national list of threatened Philippine fauna and their categories. The previous update was from 2004, so it was time for a new look at the list. They did not do this alone, but this was executed by the Philippine Red List Committee together with the Technical Working Group for this committee. The updated list as published in Department Administrative Order 2019-09 may be found HERE.
The tiger Panthera tigris is classified as Endangered and has around 2000-3000 mature individuals left in the wild according to the IUCN Redlist. The giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca is also threatened, but not Endangered (anymore). More on the classifications below. With 500-1000 mature individuals in the wild, this species is now considered Vulnerable. Our own Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi however, is truly Critically Endangered, and has an estimated wild remaining global population of only 180-500 mature individuals. And there are many more. The Isabela Oriole Oriolus isabellae probably has less than 250 individuals, and the Philippine crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis only up to 137.
Why do we need a national list of threatened species?
So if this data is available on the IUCN Red List (see http://redlist.org/ for more information), why do we need a national list of species? There are two main reasons for that; the first one is very simple, and yet complicated in the details; the Philippines has its own laws and legislation regarding wildlife, commonly known as the Wildlife Act (RA 9147: Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act) which has in its stipulations that a national list needs to exist and needs to be regularly updated. Also in this act can be found the categories and accordingly the penalties related to those categories, and they are not exactly the same as the categories used by the IUCN.
Secondly, the IUCN is a global list, and therefore measures the global population of a species, determining if that particular species is in danger of extinction. For species endemic to the Philippines, this will make absolutely no difference, as the Philippine population is the global population. After all, endemic means they occur only here and nowhere else. However for other species that are not endemic, but resident, or migrant, there could be severe threats to them here in the Philippines while they are still in relatively good shape elsewhere in the world. Should these not also be protected here and be given special consideration? That’s why the national list will give a classification on a national level, regardless of the status worldwide. A good example is the saltwater crocodile Crocodylus porosus which is considered Least Concern on a global scale, but which in the Philippines is considered Critically Endangered.
What are the threat categories?
So what exactly are these threat categories and how do we use them? This could be a whole blog topic by itself so I will not go into too much detail here, but instead I’ll just give an overview. For IUCN, there are nine categories, ranging from Not Evaluated to Extinct. Most often used are Least Concern for species that are not threatened and the three actual threat categories Vulnerable (in danger of going extinct), Endangered (large chance of going extinct if no action is taken) and Critically Endangered (on the brink, will go extinct soon if no action is taken).
The national threatened species list uses similar categories; Critically Endangered (extremely high risk of extinction), Endangered (survival in the wild unlikely without action) and Vulnerable (under threat), however has other categories as well. There is Other Threatened Species, which includes the similar IUCN category ‘Near Threatened’ but also includes ‘Data Deficient’ species and newly described species which would be categorized as ‘Not Evaluated’ under IUCN; this category is a sort of catch-all category, which makes sure that all wildlife is protected by law. Finally, there is a category Other Wildlife Species, which includes every species not listed under any of the other categories. This would basically be the Least Concern category of IUCN.
So you see there is a large overlap, but with important changes, which are mainly because of legal reasons. The IUCN list is, after all, made to advise and inform. The Philippine national list is part of the law. For those interested to dive into the finer points of the categories, as well as how the experts have determined which species fall under which category, please see the peer-reviewed paper by Gonzales et al 2019
Red data booklet
I am writing about this now, because besides the actual list of DAO 2019-09, published in 2019, we recently also made a booklet about this list, with additional information per species. The booklet lists all vertebrate species in the categories CR, EN, VU and OTS and includes a photo or illustration along with a short text describing the species, where it occurs and why it is threatened. The booklet is freely available on the BMB website and also HERE, and is aimed at general public, law enforcers, academe and conservationists. Especially for law enforcers we hope this will be a useful tool in recognizing threatened species and determining their threat categories.