In 1992 Gerry Ledesma, a Filipino conservationist advised by the late William Oliver, contacted World Land Trust (WLT) to see if the Trust could fund the purchase of Danjugan Island, which was under threat from developers to turn it into a resort.
International coral reef conservationist, Sue Wells (now a WLT Council member) was working in Manila at the time and WLT asked her to visit the site and advise on its conservation potential. Her report was enthusiastic, and as a result WLT, supported by David Bellamy, launched an appeal to raise £250,000.
In addition to fundraising, WLT also later contacted Coral Cay Conservation, who carried out some basic surveys using their volunteer divers. WLT also arranged for surveys of the bats of the islands, as well as commissioning a film of the wildlife (copies are still available).
Subsequently WLT funded studies of the aquarium fish trade impact on coral reef fishes, as well as extensive replanting of mangroves on the adjacent mainland island of Negros.
For several years John Burton, the CEO of WLT, served on the Board of the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation (PRRFCI), but resigned in due course when the Foundation was maturing, so that it could become a fully independent Filipino organisation.
WLT's policy has always been to encourage its partners to become independent of WLT funding, and in recent years PRRFCI has derived a modest income from tourists visiting the island, as well as grants from trusts and foundations. WLT has continued to receive and pass on donations from supporters keen to conserve the amazing biodiversity of the island and its surrounding coral reefs
This was WLT’s third project. It gave WLT supporters an opportunity to become a ‘founder owner’ of the tropical paradise Island of Danjugan, saving it from housing development. In 2000 the loan had been repaid and fundraising completed.