After the facilities for Phase II have been established, we will collect individuals of target species to maintain and breed in captivity, for the purposes of establishing and maintaining assurance colonies of threatened species, as well as producing offspring for immediate “head-starting” to release into long-term population monitoring areas. Offspring will be raised in captivity and introduced at the collection locations or to-be-determined locations where target species have been extirpated.
Using the data from Project Palaka Phase I, as well as the information learned during Project Palaka Phase II, we intend to develop protocols for ex-situ herpetofaunal conservation projects in the Philippines. These protocols will be shared with other conservation organizations seeking to conduct ex-situ conservation in the country.
A main objective of Project Palaka will be the education of young, talented Filipino biologists and ecologists via research opportunities and career development. As such, Project Palaka will give 2-4 yet-to-be-selected undergraduate students from the UPLB the opportunity to work at Project Palaka in exchange for using data collected from the project for their thesis projects. Students will also be included as co-authors on all published materials.
A significant socio-environmental issue in the Philippines is the establishment of squatter communities within the boundaries of protected landscapes. The construction of these settlements can destroy habitat and reduce water quality (most are along rivers within protected areas). However, the people within these communities have nowhere else to go, and many settlements are old enough that they are multigenerational, with some people having lived their entire lives in these communities. In some cases, utilities have been installed and schools have even been built.
This is a complex issue, and one that will not be resolved in the foreseeable future. Our interest in these communities is that the rampant poverty and close proximity to protected biodiversity makes poaching and illegal collection of animals and plants a potentially lucrative trade for the people within the settlements. During Phase I of Project Palaka, people living within Mt. Makiling preserve were hired to assist in capturing frogs.
This arrangement not only provided a supplemental source of income to these individuals, but resulted in their becoming interested in the project itself, the health of the frogs, etc. We believe that continuing a policy of hiring local people within the community to assist with the capturing of herpetofauna will help deter people from exploitative activities (such as poaching) for financial gain.
Project Palaka will conduct bi-monthly visits to schools in Laguna province to teach local children about biodiversity of the Philippines. Additionally, the project will host a minimum of two field trips per year to allow public high school students the chance to see the staff of Project Palaka working with the captive animals, so they might be inspired to pursue a later career in conservation.