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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Calauit Game Preserve and Widlife Sanctuary of Palawan: The African Safari of the Philippines


Wazzup Pilipinas!

"Surprisingly, travel to Calauit Island is not so popular, and many are not aware of the existence of the herds of African animals roaming freely in the island. The relative inaccessibility, the lack of promotion, and the high cost of travel may have something to do with the low interest of the people."
The Calauit Game Preserve and Widlife Sanctuary or Safari Park in Palawan, specifically located at Calauit Island, a 3,700 hectare island in the Calamian Islands chain that lies off the coast of Palawan in the MIMAROPA region of the Philippines, is like a spitting image of Africa in the Philippines.
"The sanctuary holds the single distinction as the first successful wildlife translocation experiment in Asia, and it is also one of the eight places outside of Africa that is hosts to African wildlife."
Aside from zebras and giraffes, the game reserve is also home to peacock pheasants, porcupines, sea eagles, wildcats, scaly anteaters, and pythons. Whether endemic or imported from Africa, the animals here seem to be mostly living in a peaceful co-existence. Though the animals are free to roam and make their own territories that they can claim as their own, there exist fighting among some animals ending to some dying from the wounds after the ruckus. Sadly, there were also reports of poaching.









 




Way back in 2016, a newspaper reported that "the park guides claim that there are 34 zebras, 25 giraffes, 14 waterbucks, and 12 elands remain, but these are all island-born, as the original batch from Kenya are all gone. The gazelles, topis and impala antelopes have also died out because of infighting and poaching."
"Calauit Island was declared Calauit Game Preserve and Widlife Sanctuary (CGPWS) in 1976. By 1979, the government established the Calauit Project to propagate African animals and Palawan endemic wildlife species, preserve the entire sanctuary, including coastal and marine resources, develop the island as an education and conservation center in Asia, and to ultimately develop the island into self-sustaining operations."



Also, the government had to clear the island of inhabitants to give way to the animals. About 250 families who were settlers in the island were relocated in Halsey and Burabod in the nearby island of Culion. Were there any resistance from the inhabitants, I'm sure there was but we do recognize the importance of sustaining wildlife before they become extinct. Man has conquered too many lands anyway, but I'm sure soon we can find a way for both species to co-exist in a same island.
"After the EDSA People Power in 1986, the settlers formed the “Balik Calauit Movement,” and aired their collective grievances to the new government. Some of the settlers tried to return to the Island but were driven away. In June 1987, their efforts to return have finally succeeded. Their presence in the island though, now numbering about 1,000, has caused some problems to the sanctuary in terms of poaching, kaingin activities, high mortality of animals, and disturbance to surrounding marine area."


If you're interested in visiting Calauit Island, you need to travel by domestic plane for almost an hour from Manila to Busuanga-Coron airport. The island is about 80 kilometers away from Coron town proper. Road improvement efforts have been made so the travel time is now reduced to only two hours. Only about 30 more kilometers remain to be paved. A van 10 to 12 seater can be rented out for P6,000. A 25 minute boat ride costing P400 awaits the visitors at the end. Entry fee to the park is about P200.

I really do not know why the Department of Tourism has not yet boosted promotions of the site. Maybe because they are afraid that more visitors will endanger the animals of the island. More people coming in will obviously create more distraction and also disease to negatively effect the animals.


Photography by Collin Yap

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