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Wildlife of Polillo Island, Philippines

Oxford University - University of the Philippines at Los Banos

Polillo Project 1999

Final Report


Katie Hampson

Phillip Alviola

Daniel Bennett

Chloé Galley

Ma Victoria Hilario

Mimie Ledesma

Joseph Nicholson

Henry P. Roy Jr.

Susan Walker



Daniel Bennett

 Reproduced on the internet for private study, all rights reserved

Published by:


118 Sheffield Road


SK13 8QU

Great Britain

With the generous assistance of:


Flora and Fauna International

Birdlife International

BP Amoco

The Royal Geographical Society

Rio Tinto plc

The North of England Zoological Society

The Peoples Trust for Endangered species

The Henrietta Hutton Trust

The Karen Hanssen Trust

The Eden Project

The Dinam Charity

St Anne’s College

The Oxford University Exploration Club

Wadham College

The Oxford Society

The Mike Soaper Bursary

The Gilchrist Educational Trust

The Edinburgh Trust


The Albert Reckitt Trust

The Forest Lodge Garden Centre


We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all those whose involvement has been invaluable to the success of this research.

The members of the Polillo ’99 project would like to thank Hon. Doris Almeda, Mayoress of the Municipality of Polillo (1998 to present) Province of Quezon, Philippines, Jimmy Passion, the Municipal Council of Polillo, William Azuala, (Division Head Community Environment and Natural resources Office, DENR-Polillo), and all staff at the Polillo Community and Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO-DENR), the Municipal Forestry Department (watershed management office) and the Municipal Council of Panukulan. Further thanks to residents and community leaders of Barangay Sibulan and Pinaglubayan, Municipality of Polillo, Municipality of Burdeos and Municipality of Panukulan, Polillo Island.

We are indebted to Vicente Yngente, Remigio Romana, Matthias Bulalacao, Augusto Zafe, Pido Bulalacao, Lito Bulalacao, Dennis Bulalacao, William Bulalacao, Ricky Bulalacao, Eliazer Bulalacao, Christian Zafe, Malou Yngente and family, Marvin and colleagues. Work on Polillo would not have been possible without their support, local expertise and warm hospitality.

We would like to thank J.C.T. Gonzalez, Andre T.L. Dans, Leticia Afuang of UPLB and William Oliver of FFI. We are deeply grateful to them for mediating this research and providing sound advice and encouragement both prior to and during the field period. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with, and for support from, the Polillo Ecology Stewardship Project, which is funded by the North of England Zoological Society (Chester Zoo). Additional funding assistance for this scheme was also kindly provided by FFI, Vogel park Avifauna, Denver Zoological Society, West of England Zoological Society, Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens and Columbus Zoo. We further wish to acknowledge the British Library of Wildlife Sounds for their support and provision of equipment.

We would all like to further express our thanks to Dr Roger Wilkinson, Chris West and Dr Gordon McGregor-Reid (Chester Zoo), Niel Aldrin D.Mallari (Haribon Foundation), Blaz Hernaez (UPLB), Katharine Gotto and Robin Mitchell (BP Conservation Programme), Roger Sison (The Philippines National Museum), Martin Speight (Oxford University), Pat Wisniewski, Richard Ranft (the British Library of Wildlife Sounds), Sandy Duncan (BP Amoco, Philippines), Michael Riley (the British Embassy, Manila), Liza G.Dans and Juan Cornejo.


The South Luzon Faunal region is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and one of the world’s highest priority regions for conservation concern in terms of both numbers of threatened endemic species represented and degrees of threat. High levels of deforestation in the Philippines has put much of the archipelago’s fauna at risk. The small island of Polillo has an unusually high amount of endemicity amongst several key vertebrate groups; amphibians, lizards and birds. Polillo harbours several internationally threatened keystone species with highly restricted distributions such as Gray’s monitor lizard, the Philippine cockatoo, the Tarictic hornbill, The Giant Golden-crowned flying fox, the Philippine warty pig and the Philippine rusa. Much of the islands fauna is unknown (Phillip Alviolas Bat research this report documented 11 new island records increasing the islands bat species richness by an incredible 48%).

Because of Polillo’s conservation importance, a full-time wildlife warden or ‘Ecology Steward’, Vicente Yngente, the first in the Philippines, was employed in 1997 under the terms of the ‘Polillo Island Adoption/ Wardening Scheme’ devised by Fauna and Flora International and local wildlife biologists, with sponsorship assistance from the North of England Zoological Society and other international conservation agencies (see below). The level of hunting and deforestation have undoubtedly been reduced and local public awareness of and interest in conservation of the islands wildlife and forests have greatly increased due to his efforts. Further research and implimentation of conservation measures identified in this report are vital, together with continued and increased support for the wildlife wardenship scheme.

Development on Polillo island is recent, but now increasing apace. During the course of our three month study a car ferry was introduced to travel between Polillo and Infanta, Luzon. There is little or no transport infrastructure on the island at present and all the barangays (villages) are therefore situated on the coast apart from Barangay Pinaglubayan close to the watershed. A road from the north to the south of the island is currently being built that will link Polillo town, to Burdeos and Panukulan in the North (the three major towns). There is only one hotel on the island but others are planned. Tourism could have a potentially large impact on island life. The island’s economy is based on coconuts, which are adversely affected by the regular occurrence of typhoons and are relatively unprofitable because of the large amount of land needed to produce economically viable amounts of the key export product, copra. All drinking water for the south of the island comes from the Sibulan Watershed Reserve.

Only 200 hectares (2km2) of forest on Polillo Island have formal protection as the Sibulan Watershed Reserve. There are many small and often isolated patches of forest on the island that play an important role in supporting much of the forest wildlife. However these face the imminent threat of encroachment by coconut plantations and caribou logging. Many local residents are unaware of the important wildlife populations on the islands and that many of the animals are found only on Polillo.

A joint team of students from Oxford University and the University of the Philippines at Los Banos conducted fieldwork on Polillo from the 12th of June to the 17th of September 1999, including a five-day study in Baranguay Bati, near Panukulan, North Polillo. Studies were conducted on amphibians, bats, batflies, birds, Lizards, Gray’s monitor lizard Varanus olivaceus, the water monitor Varanus salvator marmoratus, and the stream systems within the Sibulan Watershed Reserve were mapped. The project aimed to facilitate conservation strategies and biological monitoring programmes on the island of Polillo based on

Expedition Members

Katie Hampson Oxford University

Chloe Galley Oxford University

Susan Walker Oxford University

Ben Martynoga Oxford University

Joseph Nicholson Oxford University

Andrew Limond Oxford University

Daniel Bennett University of Aberdeen

Phillip Alviola University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB)

Mimie Ledesma UPLB

Henry Roy UPLB

Vic Vic UPLB

JC Gonzalez UPLB

Leticia Afuang UPLB

Andre Tomas Dans

Vicente Yngente Polillo Ecology Steward

Matthias Bulalacao Forest Guard

Pido Bulalacao Polillo Island

Augusto Zafe Polillo Island

Lito Bulalacao Polillo Island

Dennis Bulalacao Polillo Island

William Bulalacao Polillo Island

Remigio Romana Polillo Island

Ricky Bulalacao Polillo Island

Ely Bulalacao Polillo Island

Toto Zafe Polillo Island


29/6/99 Arrive Manila, extend visas, visit museum, buy supplies, acclimatisation

3/7/99 Meet UPLB counterparts, visit museum and libraries, buy equipment

11/7/99 Arrive on Polillo, meet municipality officials,

13/7/99 Start fieldwork

7/9/99 Depart for Panukulan, North Polillo. Meet mayor of Panukulan and arrange trip to Baranguay Bati.

8/9/99 Depart for Bati, set up camp.

9/9/99 Start field work in Bati

13/9/99 Return to base camp

17/9/99 Depart from Polillo, arrive Los Banos

18/9/99 Complete fieldwork on Mt Maquiling, finish logistical work in Los Banos

19/9/99 Depart Los Banos, meet embassy officials

20/9/99 Depart from Manila


Gray’s monitor lizard Varanus olivaceus9

Water monitor lizard Varanus salvator marmoratus…29




Bat flies…127