What’s new in Bacolod?
by Peter van Dordrecht
Record of my visit to the Philippines
Since almost ten years Rotterdam Zoo is financially supporting the Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Bacolod, a city on the Island of Negros in the Philippines.
The aim of my visit in April 2009 was to find answers to some questions: What does the Centre look like; are there volunteers and if so what are their activities? Is the Center paying attention to education and if so in which way? And last but not least how is our support applied?
Wednesday April 22nd
My first full day at Negros. I slept like a log, no jetlag. My hostess Mimie had drawn up an attractive and varied programme.
In the morning (pleasantly outdoors) we talked about education in the full sense. Afterwards I took many photographs of the Centre. In the afternoon I had a talk with curator Joanna. In between and in the evening we ate out: two hot meals a day and every time in a different place, very pleasant.
Thursday April 23rd
I started photographing all the enclosures which look good as a matter of fact. As to my knowledge this is also the case with the animals. The informative signs with species names look good. Unfortunately not all enclosures have one because they are relatively expensive. The signs with information on themes in the centre were out of date. Too much text and hardly any graphics.
Renée and Joanna and myself discussed reintroduction of Visayan spotted deer and the accompanying education. Next I visited to the local museum.The history of Negros through paintings and utensils; a nice and informative visit.
In the evening we have been to the Panaad. Before hand they had told me that a Panaad is an “exhibit”. In reality the Panaad can be described as an open-air bazaar with some small exhibitions on little villages or nature conservation. There are also little shops selling illicit souvenirs, mainly shells.
Friday April 24th
Tomorrow Mimie, Des and I are going to Dumaguete, where we will stay for the night. Today I have read the information on the projects there. In the afternoon I visited the local university. NFEFI-BCC (Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Inc) is trying to find students for their research projects. Luckily they succeeded in finding them. Next we discussed the Junior-Zookeepers day. The photos of that day illustrate that this seems a good idea to make the local children aware of nature in their backyard.
Saturday April 25th and Sunday April 26th
Two very fatiguing but special days. First of all a 6 hours’ drive in a hired car with chauffeur (luxurious!). After a while we made a stop in a village for a drink and a pee. Then we drove on again along a very bad road where roadworks were in progress. All the way to Dumaguete we saw small villages with little ‘houses’ (slum dwellings) and litte ‘shops’ (stalls) alongside the road.
There is not much real nature left. In Negros there is at the most some 4% of original rain forest left and that is not very much. I only saw white herons (cattle egrets I think), mallards, pigeons, sparrows and swallows. And one, only one, big (unknown) bird of prey.
During lunch I met Jean, project manager and Clint, education manager. After a conducted tour at the Centre Mimie, Jean, Clint and myself discussed education and volunteers. At this Centre the enclosures are less green but still reasonable to good, however the education section is rather poor.
Once in our hotel we found out that there was a power cut in the entire Visaya-area, Negros included. The hotel had no generator so we had to find our rooms after lighting a candle. We decided to move to another hotel.
Next day we met with Pol Carino, a fieldworker from NFEFI who tries to make people aware of bats by telling them all about bats and by lettting them work with bats. We thorouhgly discussed the people’s general view on conservation here and the items that need attention. Politicians have much influence.
Then back to Bacolod again. It started to rain and … let’s say that the driver loved going home …. so the way back took much less time and we were glad to arrive home without a scratch.
Monday April 27th
Today there is an open house day at the Centre. Several groups of schoolchildren, students and members of the public will visit the Centre. Mimie and Arleen will see to the guided tours. First of all they will give a talk illustrated with animal pictures in the open-air education space. Dependent on the age of the visitors the talk will include subjects such as animal protection and bio-diversity.
The explanation for the first group with little ones was given in the local dialect. English was used for the other groups. No standard English however, so for me rather difficult to follow. Pleasant tours with extensive explanation on the status of the animals and the possible threats they may encounter. At the same time the vet informed the new veterinary students on the activities a vet has to do in a small ‘zoo‘, such as hygiene, zoonoses etc. including paying attention to animal care and the neatness of the enclosures. The students are going to start a few projects for Joanna.
Tuesday April 28th
Today Mimie, Joanna and myself evaluated yesterday’s guided tours, including the themes bio-diversity and breeding programmes. I put a few suggestions forward which were welcomed by Mimie. Mimie had already indicated that she intended to make a few alterations. Variety is the spice of life.
I mentioned the birthday parties in Rotterdam Zoo. That might be a good idea for the Centre, but it only applies for kids that can afford it, there is a reverse to each plan…
As for the theme bio-diversity the presence of three species of mammals, ten species of birds and only one reptile is rather thin when you are discussing bio-diversity. Preferably more animal species like bats and snakes might be included. Or maybe animals from the other groups like reptiles, amphibians, rodents and perhaps even butterflies or other invertebrates. Posters about bats, snakes, butterflies and plants might be welcome. And also more information on reforestation in spite of the fact that NFEFI is not working on reforestation at the moment. In my opinion all this could be essential to arouse the interest of the people from in and around Bacolod for the themes conservation and bio- diversity.
We exchanged views on volunteers. At this moment there are hardly any volunteers at the Centre. Volunteers are often students who stop after finishing their studies. I mentioned that in Rotterdam we have mothers and old age pensioner as volunteers. The Centre might consider to give schools a discount as a reward when they can find mothers willing to help out as a volunteer. Mimie is going to approach pensioners. I also suggested to write a manual so that training the volunteers will take less time. Joanna prefers volunteers to use a story board. With a story board you know what to tell and where. In that case keepers may join the guided tours brigade as well. Under the given circumstances this seems a good idea.
In the following days I visited a Centre for Bio-diversity on Cebu, another island in the Philippines that is supported by NFEFI. The enthusiasm and passion were conspicuous. The results of five years of their reforestation project are impressive.
Looking back on my trip I am convinced that the Centre in Bacolod needs our support. I am convinced that the money is put to a good use. The employees of the Centre are motivated and are working hard. The Centre looks well tended, the education section looks pretty (via e-mail we still regularly discuss how to improve it any further) and the guided tour is pleasant. Since my visit in April I am still in contact with Mimie and Joanna.translated article Blijdorp Blad 3 - fall 2009