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To raise funds for the refurbishment of homes for confiscated illegally traded and surrendered wildlife, BIOFIN Philippines together with the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL), Faber-Castell, Wildlife Rescue Center (WRC) of Biodiversity Management Bureau, Haribon Foundation and the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) organized a fund-raising event called #KeepThemWild. It served as an eye-opener and a learning activity that provided artistic inspiration to participants in painting their own canvas tote bags to shed light on the state of wildlife at the WRC and raise funds for their maintenance.

#KeepThemWild hopes to ease up the dire situation in the center caused by its lack of resources to maintain wild animals. NAPWC Protected Area Superintendent Nelson Castillo said, “Most of the time, rescued wild animals brought here are sick and injured. We tend to them; we rehabilitate them, even if the animals are exotic animals and can no longer be released in the wild. The challenge is in maintenance and provision of their needs. We are a government facility but we have limited budget even though more and more animals are being brought to us.”

Through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs of CBTL and Faber-Castell, #KeepThemWild hopes to raise funds from registration fees of participants for refurbishment of homes of confiscated wildlife, particularly for the construction of a pasture area inside the WRC for herbivore wild animals.

The Philippines is one of 17 mega biodiverse countries in the world, containing two-thirds of the Earth's biodiversity and 70 percent of world's plants and animal species. To preserve at least this status, the country has enacted Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act while at the same time opted to be a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity since 1992. Despite these measures, the country remains a biodiversity hotspot because of illegal wildlife trading, massive habitat loss, human encroachment on wildlife habitats, and pollution, among other causes.

It is estimated that the Philippines loses Php 50 billion (USD 1 billion) a year due to illegal wildlife trade, according to the World Bank’s Global Wildlife Program (GWP). This includes what illegal wildlife collectors and traders should have paid, the market value of resources involved, the ecological role of the collected wild resources, and the damage to their habitats incurred during poaching.

The country is a consumer, a source, and a transit point of illegal wildlife and wildlife parts, thus threatening its own endemic species populations, economic development, and biodiversity. Its most traded species include the Philippine forest turtle (critically endangered), Palawan pangolin (vulnerable), Hawksbill turtle (critically endangered), Blue naped parrot (vulnerable), Southeast Asian box turtle (endangered), Hill mynah (vulnerable), Asian leaf turtle (endangered), and Tockay Gecko (not listed).

#KeepThemWild’s first fund-raising event was a success. Forty-one adults and children participated in an educational tour inside the WRC and the Park. CBTL sold tickets at Php 500 per participant and prepared the promotional material while Faber-Castell provided art materials and an art instructor. The event was promoted through respective social media accounts of CBTL, BIOFIN, and NAPWC. Haribon Foundation conducted a native tree walk for the participants, teaching them how to identify native trees inside the park and how important these trees were. The BMB staff acted as tour guides.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Glen Maguad of the WRC shared how the center tried to advocate for people to avoid illegal trading or irresponsible pet ownership of wild animals, which when confiscated and rescued, end up at the WRC. With limited funds to maintain its facilities, the animals are put in dire conditions.

“When a kid sees a myna that can speak, he will ask his parents to buy him one because that’s a cool bird,” said Maguad. “We want people to know that 99 other mynas have died for that one myna to survive. We want people to understand that wild animals such as the myna should be kept wild for them to survive,” he added. Mynas have a striking 99% mortality rate.

The activity’s highlight was the canvas tote bag painting with art materials provided by Faber-Castell Philippines and snacks with refreshments from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Philippines.

“Activities like this [#KeepThemWild] are very close to our heart. We at CBTL encourage everyone to take part in efforts to raise awareness for the issues that matter, one of which is about our biodiversity in the Philippines. Know their state and the importance of taking part in its protection and conservation no matter who you are, or how big or small your act is,” said Clarieanne Aguilar of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Philippines. A watercolor painting workshop hosted by Faber-Castell Philippines formed part of the program as well.

In closing the #KeepThemWild event, Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez of the Biodiversity Management Bureau thanked BIOFIN, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Faber-Castell and Haribon Foundation for helping raise funds for the wild animals of WRC. Rodriguez said, “… these animals have been rescued, apprehended, and we are doing our best to take care of them with the limited funds and resources that we have. We are hoping that we can have more [learning and fund-raising activities] in the future so we can help these wild animals, that have lives like us and should be kept wild.” She added that partnerships with private organizations and companies such as CBTL and Faber-Castell through CSR programs as well as with non-government organizations such as the Haribon Foundation are essential in achieving the biodiversity targets of the country.

#KeepThemWild contributes mainly to achieving Target 18 of the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), which aims to raise awareness of the importance, threats, and benefits of biodiversity. The activity also supports Target 1 (improving conservation status of nationally and globally threatened species) and Target 10 (reducing, controlling and managing key threats to biodiversity).

Realigning CSR funds towards biodiversity programs and projects is one of BIOFIN’s finance solutions to narrow the huge financing gap in biodiversity conservation. According to a survey conducted by the League of Corporate Foundations in 2015-2016 among 62 foundations, total CSR expenditure for 2015 amounted to PhP 2.75 B with an annual expenditure from PhP 0.5 M to PhP 450 M per foundation. In terms of CSR sector involvement, approximately 6 in 10 respondents were active in the environment sector (63%) while almost all were engaged in the education sector (90%). (BIOFIN Philippines)


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