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