Loro Parque Fundación backs Katala in more conservation successes for the Philippine Cockatoo


Close to the equator, and with about 7,640 islands, the Philippines has countless sun-drenched, white-sand tropical beaches and warm, crystal-clear waters. The western-most island of Palawan (and its satellite islands) is well-endowed with these natural assets which, together with the greater area of forest which it retains, is designated as a Biosphere Reserve under the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO. It also constitutes the stronghold of the Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), a species classified in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Critically Endangered’. The threats to the existence of the Philippine Cockatoo are various, but the two main cause of its highly threatened status are the widespread destruction of its lowland forest habitat and the illegal removal of mainly young cockatoos for the pet trade.

Result of these pressures is the disappearance of cockatoos from most of the Philippine islands, and an upper estimate of only 1,120 wild Philippine Cockatoos. The lower estimate could be as few as 640, but without doubt this would be worse without the strenuous conservation efforts made by the local Katala Foundation Inc. (KFI) within its Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program (PCCP). Katala and Kalabukay are two local names for the cockatoo. The Loro Parque Fundación (LPF) has since 1999 been the principal  supporter of the PCCP, with its main partner donors being the Chester Zoo, ZGAP (Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations) and Beaval Nature. Without the US$1,679,278 contributed to date, it is likely that the species would now be extinct in the wild, but instead we now have a much more optimistic scenario where recovery of the wild population increasingly becomes reality.

The island of Palawan certainly has its idyllic side, but even with Biosphere Reserve status there are substantial challenges that the conservation heroes of the KFI, co-directors Peter Widmann and Indira Lacerna-Widmann and their team are tackling head-on. To deal directly with the poaching...