A dragon-back island rising from the Sulu Sea in the Philippines, its slopes smothered in rainforest and its coast fringed by coral reefs: Danjugan is a rare ‘treasure island’ – one of the few that has escaped the impact of over-fishing, pollution and forest clearance in this part of Southeast Asia. But it could so easily have been a different, bleaker picture.
Back in 1993, when the late William Oliver, a conservationist working in the Philippines, alerted World Land Trust (WLT) to the impending threat of an unsympathetic beach resort on Danjugan Island, we helped establish the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation (PRRCFI), led by Gerry Ledesma. UK fundraising was launched at the Stratford upon Avon Butterfly House.
Launching the Danjugan Island Appeal: David Bellamy and Gerardo Ledesma (Exec Director of the PRRCFI), with David Tate, of Tate & Lyle (who sponsored the event) in the presence of Mrs Serrano, Consul from the Philippines Embassy in London.
WLT successfully raised the funds to purchase Danjugan Island to ensure its protection from development forever. The 106-acre island is now a thriving sanctuary, home to 572 fish species, 244 different corals, 22 butterfly species and some 72 species of birds, from White-breasted Sea Eagle to Tabon Scrub Fowl. Hawksbill and Green Turtles nest on its beaches, while no fewer than 10 bat species are found in its limestone caves.
WLT CEO, John Burton, said: “I first met Gerry Ledesma in 1994 at WLT’s UK launch of the project and since then I have been totally inspired by the efforts of PRRFCI to build a strong organisation for the permanent protection of the island. Seen from Google Earth, Danjugan is a small but very green island that continues to act as a refuge for migratory birds in the southern hemisphere, as well as the wildlife that lives there year round. Congratulations to Gerry, his team, and everyone else who has been involved over the past 25 years and we hope you enjoy this momentous occasion.”
Today, celebrating its 25th anniversary, Danjugan island serves as an outdoor classroom for students, a research area for conservationists, and a model for carefully managed ecotourism.