August now Dulungan Month

July 23, 2020

The Antique provincial government passed Ordinance 2020-208 declaring the month of August as a celebration for the Rufous-headed Hornbill locally known as Dulungan. The species is one of the two most threatened hornbills in the Philippines, the other is the Sulu hornbill. Both are endemic and can only be found in the Philippines.

The announcement comes in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the cause of which is rooted in human encroachment on forest habitats.

“Conserving nature is now more important than ever,” shares Gregorio de la Rosa Jr, Conservation Science and Research Department head of the Haribon Foundation. “Legislators continue to work safely through the COVID-19 pandemic by helping nature be more resilient,” adds de la Rosa.

Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) member Pio Jessielito Sumande of the provincial government of Antique sponsored the passage of the ordinance. Though the Dulungan was also declared the Provincial Bird of Antique in the early 2000s, not much is known about the species. It is hoped that the announcement will instill more pride among Antiquenos, as well as for Filipinos elsewhere, since it can only be found in the Philippines.

The Dulungan hornbill or Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni can only be found in Panay and Negros islands. They feed on fruit trees in the forests, and create nests out of natural holes and crevices in the trees. Regarded as “farmers of the forest,” the Dulungan helps in seed dispersal of trees, helping forests grow and expand.

The Central Panay Mountains in Panay Island is home to watersheds that provide clean water to several communities from the four provinces of Antique, Aklan, Capiz and Iloilo. This also inspired the local governments of Sebaste and Valderrama in Antique to declare 3,348 and 9,665 hectares of their forests as Critical Habitat (CH) for the Dulungan and other threatened species. CH are established by local governments and communities to protect threatened species that are outside of Protected Areas, as defined in the NIPAS Act in national law. 

The CH was declared due to the presence of 5 important species unique to Western Visayas, one of them being the Dulungan.

Despite these advances in conserving the Dulungan and forest resources, only 8% of Panay’s forest remain. Altogether, only 24% of forests remain in the entire archipelago according to the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic has been found to be related to coronaviruses found in bats in the forests of southern China. Coronaviruses are common among bats around the world, including the Philippines. As populations encroach further into forests around the world, it is expected that more outbreaks whether great or small will occur.

The Haribon Foundation, with support from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) have been working together under Haribon’s Species of Hope: Dulungan project.

Through the partnership, surveys were conducted in Antique province and Wildlife Enforcement Officers were trained to assist in law enforcement. Awareness-raising activities were conducted where both students and teachers planned and carried out conservation projects.

“This is an example of how important local efforts are in conserving species unique to the country, and even specific islands and provinces,” adds the Haribon Foundation.

“As communities in Panay begin to celebrate their unique natural heritage year after year, it is hoped this inspires other communities to declare similar measures. This is a good start in protecting our remaining forests and preventing, or preparing for, future outbreaks. Kruhay!” said the Haribon Foundation.