Danjugan Keeper of the Wild sends her first field report SEARCH NEWS

Giant Clam in Danjugan Marine Reserve by Toby Gibson

The new Keeper of the Wild in Danjugan, Chai Apale, describes her first few busy months at Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries (DIMRS).

I started work with the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation (PRRCFI) on 16 November 2012. My position is Island Manager at DIMRS, funded by the Keepers of the Wild programme of World Land Trust (WLT).

Volunteers from Managers Without Borders, a Germany-based foundation that supports global volunteerism, were starting their voluntary work in Danjugan Sanctuary just as I joined PRRCFI. This made my getting to know the island a lot easier.

Wildlife on the reserve

During one of our patrols, we spotted a commercial fishing vessel encroaching the municipal fishing grounds. We chased the fishing vessel and gathered information about the company and the ship’s captain.

Leaving aside encounters with poachers and illegal fishers, we were on the look out for marine and terrestrial species that live in Danjugan Sanctuary. We spotted a Blue-ringed Octopus (genus Hapalochlaena) when we kayaked the whole island, the resident White-Bellied Sea Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster), hundreds of fruit bats and others. When we dived, we saw Reef Lobsters that are more than a foot long (genus Enoplometopus).

Environmental education

Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program (DEEP) held its last camp of 2012 in December. The camp ran for three days and two nights, and 30 enthusiastic elementary students took part. On the second night a Black-Banded Sea Krait (genus Laticauda, and more than a metre long) crawled just outside the Learning Center for more than an hour until returning to the water. The students were ecstatic to see the sea snake come ashore.

During the camp, the students were allowed to borrow masks, snorkels and fins. I guided a group of kids to where the 10 Tridacna gigas are seeded. I love taking visitors and students to the spot where they can find these Giant Clams.

Together with the volunteers of Managers Without Borders, we set up a kitchen waste composting system.

Plankton survey

In January 23 biology students from University of St La Salle travelled to Danjugan to sample plankton. They needed data on plankton density and diversity between day and night surface samples, at varying distances from a selected reef, within the sanctuary and outside the sanctuary area, and at varying depths during day and night.

Marine biologist, Mark De La Paz, and I carried out varying depth sampling since the students are not certified SCUBA divers. Sampling at night is quite different to sampling in day time. The students witnessed the bioluminescence activities of different marine organisms. They were amazed at how light was produced and emitted, especially when our outrigger boat disturbed the waters as we travelled back to 3rd Lagoon/Learning Center for the night.

Coral Triangle Initiative

Also in January I took part in a seminar at James Cook University looking at planning issues relating to marine protected areas (MPAs) and the goals of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). The speaker, Professor Bob Pressey, has worked on the theory, techniques and practice of conservation planning as a private environmental consultant.

The event was attended by representatives from different NGOs, academia and local government. The event gave me a good opportunity to network, and to get to know the conservationists working in Negros Island and those connected to Silliman University.

ECOFISH and an anti-poaching plan

The Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has launched the ECOFISH Project, a five-year grant programme with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development. The programme aims to conserve biological diversity, enhance ecosystem productivity and restore the profitability of fisheries. Together with BFAR, the ECOFISH team held a three-day orientation workshop.

PRRCFI was invited to attend the workshop since Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries lies in the Municipality of Cauayan, which is included in ECOFISH’s remit. Representatives from different coastal Municipalities of Negros Island attended the event along with members of NGOs and other government agencies. I attended the workshop together with the President of PRRCFI, Mr Gerry Ledesma.

During the event, participants gained a better appreciation of the economic, social, environmental and ecological value of the coastal environment as well as fisheries resources. We also worked on a plan to help PRRCFI to deal with the issue of poaching on Danjugan Sanctuary.

Crown of Thorns starfish

The Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) preys upon coral reef, and is a major cause of concern. PRRCFI is working with GIZ (the German Society for International Cooperation) to carry out underwater surveys and to monitor and manage data relating to the starfish in and around Danjugan Sanctuary. In March GIZ will provide technical training on how to respond to Crown of Thorns outbreaks in the coastal waters of the municipalities.

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