PROTECTING CAVES AND DOLPHINS
By Khrysta Imperial Rara
SUCCESSFUL ANTI-DOLPHIN CAPTIVITY CAMPAIGN
What an interesting day for Kwentuhang Pets atbp! We began the program with a phone patch with Trixie Concepcion of Earth Island Institute Phils. She updated us on the anti-dolphin captivity campaign and said Manila Ocean Park has issued a statement that it will not bring in dolphins for a dolphin show. They must have backed off from their original plan after an aggressive Facebook Campaign led by Earth Island to appeal for the non-inclusion of dolphins in the park. Trixie explained that schools like Miriam and De La Salle have pledged that their students will boycott any dolphin and whale show in the Philippines.
An on-air discussion of caves and the need to protect and manage them and the flora and species inside and around them proved to be an eye-opener. I must admit I was never really drawn to caving because I found these places to be too dark and uninteresting. I’ve visited only about 4 caves – in Bicol, Bohol, Bulacan and in Italy. I don’t remember much about them except that in Bicol, I had to rush out of the underground cave because I felt suffocated. I recall seeing the bats hanging upside down in a cave in Bulacan, their droppings or guano forming a huge pile on the cave floor. In Italy, I visited an underwater cave when it was low tide and I was too uncomfortable in the dark.
But our episode last April 14 changed all that. I learned from our guests Anson Tagtag and Ofel Espayos of the DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) that the cave is a world in itself, with a unique ecosystem.
Blind fish, blind shrimps, blind bats, stalagmites and stalactites form part of this world that the DENR would like to protect from hunters. Hunting is illegal in the Philippines, except for the tribes or katutubo. As an animal protection advocate, I don’t like the idea of hunting particularly if it’s for sport.
Guests Anson and Ofel believe that ecotourism could put a stop to the practices that destroy our caves since it will offer an alternative source of income to the local communities. But it must be well managed to ensure that the visitors do not go over the cave’s carrying capacity, or the maximum population of a particular species (in this case, human) that the habitat can support.
The next time I get to visit a cave, it will be from a different perspective. Perhaps this time curiosity and wonder will win over my mild claustrophobia.