A group of local and international partners on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines have received a prestigious grant to support an on-going program to help critically endangered tamaraw (a species of wild buffalo unique to Mindoro) rebound, and to integrate the Mangyan Tau-Buid, one of Mindoro’s eight indigenous tribes, into efforts to conserve and monitor the species. The Tau-Buid people and majority of tamaraw live in the same area, which has been heavily degraded by land-grabs and illegal hunting during the past century.
Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservation) has been awarded a major three-year (£300,000/$400,000 USD) grant from the U.K. Government’s Darwin Initiative to work with its local partner, the D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm Inc., to support the Protected Area Management Office for Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park (PAMO-MIBNP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Tamaraw Conservation Program, implement a comprehensive plan that would benefit the Tau-Buid people and the tamaraw. This plan is the result of six years of work by conservation authorities, local NGOs and the Tau-Buid people.
“From 154 in 2000 to 480 in 2019, the tamaraw population in Mounts Iglit Baco Natural Park continues to increase, an indication of success in protection and conservation,” said Neil Anthony del Mundo, coordinator of DENR’s Tamaraw Conservation Programme. “TCP and MIBNP-PAMO will not achieve this without the help of partner NGOs, local and international partners. With the Darwin grant, successful protection and conservation will be ensured to continue.”
The tamaraw is culturally significant to the Tau-Buid people and the area of their territory that overlaps with Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park is where the majority of tamaraw live. About 500 or 80% of the global tamaraw population live inside the park. Approximately 400 members of the Tau-Buid tribe live traditionally and depend on the resources in their territory to survive, by hunting and farming. However, as forested areas have been destroyed for agriculture by people looking for free land, the Tau-Buid have lost huge tracts of their territory and, along with tamaraw, have been forced to move higher in the mountains.
“The Tau-buid people see their survival as intrinsically linked to the tamaraw,” said Mike Appleton, director of protected area management for Re:wild. “They have lived alongside these animals for centuries, and for those who live traditionally, deforestation and poaching threaten their way of life and livelihoods.”
In 2020, DENR adopted a management plan for Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park stipulating that the park should be co-managed with indigenous communities. Despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Darwin Initiative grant has started supporting the lengthy process to have the Tau-Buid tribe’s ancestral lands officially recognized by the government of the Philippines, as well as supporting wildlife crime prevention, raise awareness of and monitor tamaraw. The Tau-Buid, with the support of D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm Inc. and Global Wildlife Conservation, is working with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in the Philippines, to translate their indigenous knowledge, which has been passed down through generations orally and through practical experience, to a formal application for a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
“It’s crucial to engage more seriously with the indigenous communities in order to assist them as they adapt to a fast-changing world that is pushing them to restructure their overall living space,” said Emmanuel Schütz, program director at the D’ABOVILLE Foundation and Demo Farm Inc. “We need to better understand their culture, traditional practices and value their environmental knowledge.”
The CADT application process will include collecting written accounts and testimonies from the Tau-Buid attesting to their occupation of their territories, written accounts of their customs, traditions and political structure, and historical pacts or agreements concerning boundaries of their territories.
“It is important to work hand in hand with the indigenous communities residing within the protected area, especially those in the upper region who live closely with the tamaraw, in addressing ecological decline that threatens both the people and the wildlife,” said Diosdado Torrado, protected area superintendent of MIBNP.
In addition to documenting the Tau-Buid’s territory, the application will include a plan for restoring and sustainably using it. This plan will help the Tau-Buid and Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park restore a resilient landscape capable of supporting Indigenous peoples, tamaraw and other endangered species.
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Caption: Mounts Iglit-Baco Natural Park, Mindoro, Philippines.
Credit: Andrew Tilker/Global Wildlife Conservation
Re:wild Re:wild is on a mission to protect and restore the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and pandemic crises. Founded by Leonardo DiCaprio alongside a group of renowned conservation scientists, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, corporations and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Re:wild launched in 2021 based on more than three decades of combined conservation impact of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Global Wildlife Conservation, leveraging expertise, partnerships and platforms under one unified brand, bringing new attention, energy and voices together. Our vital work has protected and conserved over 12 million acres benefitting more than 16,000 species in the world’s most irreplaceable places for biodiversity. We don’t need to reinvent the planet. We just need to rewild it—for all wildkind. Learn more at rewild.org.
The Darwin Initiative
The Darwin Initiative is a UK government grants scheme that helps to protect biodiversity and the natural environment through locally based projects worldwide. https://www.darwininitiative.org.uk/
The D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm, Inc.
The D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm, Inc. is a French-Filipino non-profit, non- government organization established in 2004 to work with the indigenous Mangyans, environment, and eco-cultural tourism in the Island of Mindoro in the Philippines. https://www.dabovillefoundation.org/