Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Chai Apale brings marine biology expertise to Danjugan

8 March, 2013 - 09:13 -- World Land Trust
Chai Apale, WLT's Keeper of the Wild in Danjugan

Raising funds to buy Danjugan Island in the Philippines was one of World Land Trust's early conservation success stories. To mark International Women's Day, we introduce Chai Apale, recently appointed coordinator of conservation activities on the island.

Charity (Chai) Apale became World Land Trust’s (WLT) second female Keeper of the Wild in November 2012. Chai works on Danjugan, one of the few smaller islands in the Philippines that still retains its original tropical forests.

‘The best aspect of working on the reserve is doing the things that I’m passionate about,’ Chai told WLT. ‘Danjugan Sanctuary is the one of the best places for someone who is into conservation efforts, dealing with the community and using environmental education to raise awareness.’

Saving habitats

The island, along with the surrounding coral reef, was in urgent need of protection in the 1990s when the island’s owners were considering selling to unsympathetic developers. Thanks to donations from WLT’s supporters, the island was saved in 2000 and has been protected ever since as Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries (DIMRS).

Chai works for WLT’s partner Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation (PRRCFI), coordinating their conservation programme. This includes protecting the reserve from poachers and other illegal fishing activities, coordinating research studies, and developing community activities including mangrove tree planting and coastal clean-up events.

Marine life

Chai is a marine biologist and has a particular interest in marine life around the island, especially the Giant Clams (Tridacna gigas), which measure up to one metre across.

‘There are 10 Tridacna gigas seeded in Doug’s Ridge, on the southeast side of Danjugan,’ she explains. ‘Every time I’m on the island, I make sure to skin dive and check these giants.'

'Danjugan Sanctuary is the one of the best places for conservation efforts, dealing with the community and using environmental education to raise awareness.'
(Chai Apale, WLT's Keeper of the Wild in Danjugan)

As well as Giant Clams, there are sightings of Manta Rays (Manta alfredi) and Napolean Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) in the northwest part of Danjugan Sanctuary. 'I haven’t seen these species yet,' Chai tells WLT, 'but I’m looking forward to swimming with them in their natural habitat.'

Conservation priority

Chai is also looking forward to the annual arrival of juvenile Blacktip Shark pups (Carcharhinus limbatus), although the shark pups are prey to poachers in the buffer zone of the Danjugan Sanctuary. In a bid to counteract poaching in the reserve, she is planing an education project to introduce the local fisherfolk to conservation.

Danjugan Sanctuary has five lagoons and seven different ecosystems including limestone forest, cave, mangrove, sandy shore, seagrass, corals and open sea. These ecosystems house 244 hard corals, 579 fishes, 72 birds, 10 bats, 17 mangroves and eight species of seagrass. The reserve is home to a nesting pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster), and other birds including Tabon Scrubfowls (Megapodius cumingii).

Keepers of the Wild

Since 1989 WLT has been tremendously successful in raising funds to save habitat. But it falls to our overseas project partners, in whom the ownership of the land is vested, to protect the reserves and the wildlife they contain. Safeguarding large tracts of land takes a considerable amount of work, and WLT's Keepers of the Wild programme enables partner organisations to employ reserve rangers. 

WLT’s supports one other female Keeper of the Wild, Gabriela Mareco. Gabriela works for Guyra Paraguay, WLT’s conservation partner in Paraguay.

You can read Chai's first report from the field here »


Donate to Keepers of the Wild »


Submitted by edzky on

Cool Chai! :) sik sik au ngetz. Let's save our mother Earth!

Submitted by Salou Keuls on

Keep up the good work Chai! We need more people like you. I wish the whole coastline of Sipalay could become a marine sanctuary. There are still people around using and abusing the marine life with the excuse as a means of livelihood.

Submitted by Chai Apale on

Hi Salou Keuls,

Warm greetings from Danjugan Sanctuary!

Thank you for your comment. The City of Sipalay has been successfully implementing the rules and regulations of Campomanes Bay, which was established in 2004 as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). According to the news, the local government is eyeing to establish three more sanctuaries within its coastal waters. However, it is true that there are still locals who haven't fully converted yet to become the front-liners of conserving their natural resources. But, the local government unit, conservationists and other NGOs are helping hand-in-hand to provide a win-win solution both for the established MPA and for the displaced fishermen.

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