PHILIPPINES' MOUNT HAMIGUITAN RANGE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY IN DAVAO ORIENTAL INSCRIBED ON WORLD HERITAGE LIST
24 June 2014 - The Philippines was honored yesterday, June 23, as Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary was officially inscribed on the prestigious United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
The decision was approved by the World Heritage Committee currently holding its 38th session in Doha, Qatar from June 15 to 25.
The Philippines’ nomination was praised as “exemplary” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) during the deliberations.
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is the 6th site of the Philippines and the first property from Mindanao to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. It is also the first mountain in the Philippines to be included in the coveted list.
The head of the Philippine delegation, Philippine Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro, welcomed the Committee's recognition of the mountain's outstanding universal value. She thanked the Members of the Committee, the advisory bodies, particularly the IUCN, and the World Heritage Center Secretariat for their support.
In her remarks to the plenary session, Ambassador Lazaro stated that the diversity of plants and animals in Mount Hamiguitan “include globally threatened species as well as species that exist only in the Philippines, only in Mindanao, and only in the nominated property.”
Ambassador Lazaro highlighted the meaningful collaboration between the communities and indigenous peoples groups, local and national government offices, and the World Heritage community in preparing the nomination.
Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon was present at the inscription and told the Committee, “the conservation of this property is the Filipino people’s gift for the rest of humanity.”
She underscored Philippine authorities’ commitment to protect the site’s high level of endemic species of flora and fauna, some of which are critically endangered like the Philippine Eagle and the carnivorous pitcher plants.
“This inscription is a celebration of the global partnership in our shared vision and desire to conserve these natural gifts for future generations. It is also a step forward towards the continuation of monitoring and preserving the fragile ecosystems in the mountain amidst changing climate and typhoon patterns,” added the Governor.
In conclusion, she affirmed the resolve of local stakeholders to protect and conserve the site’s inscribed outstanding universal value and integrity.
Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao, Philippines is the only protected forest noted for its unique bonsai field or 'pygmy' forest of 100-year old trees in an ultramafic soil. Mt. Hamiguitan has been found to have five (5) vegetation types and these are the agroecosystem, dipterocarp, montane and typical mossy and the mossy-pygmy forest. This serially nominated property is found to possess high and varied ecosystem with many endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. One of the endangered bird species located is the majestic Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). It has been identified by Conservation International as one of the Philippines 'hotspots' that is included by the Philippines Eagle Alliance as one of the first priority sites in Eastern Mindanao for conservation and protection.
The Philippine eagle is of outstanding universal value for science and conservation, whose nesting and feeding areas are located in dipterocarp forests including closed canopy forests. It is the second largest eagle in the world. The aviator Charles Lindbergh, as representative of the World Wildlife Fund, proclaimed it as "the air's noblest flyer." The Philippine eagle is the nation's symbol and is locally known as "haribon" or bird king. With a wingspan of two meters, this bird of prey boasts the largest surface area in its wings among all eagle species. Like the giant panda of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary, recently inscribed as a World Heritage Site at the 30th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Vilnius last July, the Philippine eagle is a wonder of nature of great charisma. This bird is not found elsewhere in the world and has become the symbol of Philippine conservation efforts. Widespread destruction of its habitat and collection is driving this species to extinction.
The 6,834-hectare total surface area of Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is characterized by five (5) vegetation types, namely, agro-ecosystem (75-420m asl), dipterocarp (420-920m asl), montane (920-1160m asl), typical mossy (1160-1350m asl) and the mossy-pygmy forest (1160-1200m asl). Each of these forest type harbors endemic, threatened, rare and economically important species of flora and fauna. The mossy-pygmy forest occupies approximately 225 hectares of the sanctuary. Trees have an average height of only 1.4m with a diameter of 8 cm. Two dominant species that can only be found in this forest type are Leptospermum flavescens and Wendlandia nervosa. Other species include Tristaniopsis micrantha, Dacrydium elatum, Calophyllum blancoi, Symplocos polyandra, and Agathis philippinensis (Almaciga) which has the highest average height of only 2.4 m. Madulid (1991) reported that this type of vegetation is associated with ultramafic species, such as, Calophyllum sp. Norman (2004) explained that the stunted growth of trees could be attributed to a high concentration of chromium, iron, nickel and magnesium in soil.
Inventory of flora species in each vegetation type revealed that the montane forest has the highest species richness of plants with 462 species, followed by dipterocarp forest with 338 species. Mossy and agro-system have the lowest species richness value of 246 each. The highest diversity index of trees (1.7) could be observed in the montane forest while a diversity index of 1.273 was observed in the mossy forest. The mossy-pygmy forest has the highest diversity index (1.498) for shrubs, herbs and vines. Assessment of the conservation status of the 477 identified species revealed that 163 species (18.56%) are endemic, 35 species (3.99%) threatened, 33 species (3.75%) rare and 204 species (23.23%) economically important. Eight (8) species, namely, Elaeocarpus verticillatus, Patersonia lowii, Astronia lagunensis, Nepenthes argentii, N. mira, Schizaea inopinata and S. malaccana, have been found to be new record in Mindanao and one species, Nepenthes maxima, as new record in the Philippines. Based on sampling plots, endemicity of trees per vegetation type revealed that as elevation increases, endemic species also increase. This property is therefore found to be very rich in endemism.
The IUCN Red List has identified at least 11 endangered vertebrate species. The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources and Development (PCARRD) reported that the mountain is inhabited by five endangered species, 27 rare species, 44 endemic species and 59 economically important species. In July 2004, the Mt. Hamiguitan Range has been declared under Republic Act 9303 as a protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary. Out of the 14 species of mammals observed in Hamiguitan Range, seven species (50%) were found as Philippine endemic and three species (21.4%) as Mindanao endemic with six threatened species. Two endemic species of mammals in Hamiguitan Range, Acerodon jubatus (Golden-crown Flying Fox) and Tarsius syrichta (Philippine Tarsier) are endangered; three endemic species are vulnerable, Sus philippinensis (Philippine Warty Pig), Cervus mariannus (Philippine Brown Deer), and Haplonycteris fischeri (Philippine Mossy-pygmy Fruit Bat); and one endemic species is threatened, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Asian Palm Civet). For birds, a total of fifty-three species were found, of which ten species (18.9%) are Mindanao endemic and 20 species (37.7) are Philippines endemic, respectively with four threatened species. Two endemic species of birds, Phapitreron cinereiceps (Dark-eared brown dove) and Pinelopides panini (Tarictic Hornbill) are endangered; one is near-threatened, Aethopyga primigenius (Grey-hooded sunbird) and one vulnerable, Mimizuku gumeyi (Giant-scoop Owl).
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary belongs to the 15 biogeographic zones in the Philippines considered to have the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area. This site is therefore nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its outstanding universal significance.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Mount Hamiguitan is highly significant in the Philippines' 7th ranking among the 17 biologically rich countries of the world. The site represents the fast disappearing habitats of globally important species of plants and animals. The diversity of habitats and plant and animal species in this property is attributed to the geologic setting, that is, Mount Hamiguitan is an ultramafic terrain giving rise to an ultramafic forest and associated diverse habitats and flora and fauna. At the national level, this sanctuary is a conservation interest. At a global scale, it is known to be a habitat of globally important species of plants and animals.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary located in Davao Oriental, Mindanao is the only protected forest noted for its unique bonsai field or 'pygmy' forest in an ultramafic soil that is a result of the development of rock weathers that has left the soil with an unusually high concentration of iron and magnesium, thereby causing it to be unproductive. This forest type has a substrate predominated by rocks called ultrabasic or surpentines. Mt. Hamiguitan has been found to have five (5) vegetation types and these are the agroecosystem, dipterocarp, montane and typical mossy and the mossy-pygmy forest. In the pygmy forest, only a specialized group of plants grow on this type of forest, those that are often low, heath-like shrubs such as the Nepenthes alata, a facultative species, and obligate ultramatic species of Nepenthes, which has been found to be numerous in the area. It has been declared as a protected area in the Philippines as it is found to possess a varied ecosystem with many endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna. Also endemic in Mt. Hamiguitan is the majestic and Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). The Hamiguitan Range has been identified by Conservation International as one of the Philippines 'hotspots' that is included by the Philippines Eagle Alliance as one of the first priority sites in Eastern Mindanao for conservation and protection.
Mt. Hamiguitan is a declared Protected Area under Republic Act 9303 as a Wildlife Sanctuary. The management system is in place and is being managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Protected Area Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippines. Mt. Hamiguitan presents the highest and richest bio-diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area having unique, rare and threatened endemic species of outstanding universal value. Its outstanding value comes from its being a sanctuary, habitat and center of endemism of rare and threatened species.
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