Discovery at Palawan Highlights Need for Protection
Huffington Post Green reports the discovery of five species of rare purple crabs in Palawan, Philippines, according to a study published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. Dr. Henrik Freitag, from the Seckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden and part of the team who conducted the study says four of these are new to science.
The purple crabs with red-tipped pincers are just a few inches wide, which is a factor for their only recently being discovered. Inquirer News reports that the biggest of them, the Insulamon magnum, measures 53 mm by 41.8 mm. One of the new species has been named in honor of the biodiversity-rich island, the Insulamon palawense. The other two are Insulamon porculum and the Insulamon johannchristiani. Insulamon unicorn was discovered in late 1980s.
The new discovery highlights once again the need to conserve and preserve the biodiversity hotspot island of Palawan. It is also known as the Philippine’s last ecological frontier. UNESCO declared Palawan as a Man and Biosphere Reserve that also contains two World Heritage sites (the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park). It contains a high number of endemic reptiles, amphibians, and birds, as well as a host of threatened terrestrial and marine species. Conservation International reports that Palawan retains more than 50 percent of its original forest cover, which includes old growth forests home to many species.
Palawan also contains rich mineral deposits such as nickel, iron, mercury, marble, and oil among others. All these have made Palawan a national treasure, a target and a battlefield.
Palawan’s riches have lured not only scientists, biologists, and conservationists, but illegal hunters and businessmen looking for a quick buck.
Earlier this year Huffington Post Green reported the seizure of P1,000,000 worth of illegal pangolin meat and scales smuggled as goat meat. Pangolin scales are known to be a prize ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. A kilo of Pangolin scales fetches about P5,000 or over $110. Over 90 kilos of turtle parts from endangered marine turtles (hawksbill and green turtles) were also seized at Puerto Princesa airport in Palawan.
More disturbing than the illegal trade is the continuing mining projects taking place in Palawan. The mining projects have drawn protests from local farmers for bringing toxic metal pollutants to the land and sea and destroying marine habitats as well as forests. Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining) provides a discussion by Dr. Emelina G. Regis of Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research, of how mining in Palawan impacts biodiversity and local communities. No2MininginPalawan was launched onFebruary 3, 2011 and seeks 10 million signatures to appeal against the destruction of the Philippines’ last ecological frontier. As of April 24, 2012, the site has gathered over 6 million signatures.
Rich as Palawan is in natural resources, it has also become a battlefield where the lifeblood of environmental defenders has been spilled. Dr. Gerry Ortega, a known environmentalist-journalist, was slain last January of 2011 allegedly for his outspoken participation in the campaign against mining in Palawan. His murder remains unresolved.
Protecting biodiversity-rich national heritages will never be easy or cheap, in terms of either money or effort, but failing to protect them might prove to be even a greater loss.
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