The inseparable link between conserving biodiversity and promoting sustainable development is now more prominent than ever. The sweeping pandemic is a reminder of how zoonotic diseases can become deadly and spread uncontrollably if illegal trade of wildlife and destruction of its natural habitats will persist. In the Philippines, our biodiversity powerhouse will play a critical role in securing and enriching the resources we need—food, water, shelter, and livelihood—to reinvigorate the economy, sustain a stable society, and adapt to the new normal.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other stakeholders are now in a better position to strengthen this link between conservation and development, thanks to the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Protect Wildlife project. Under this project, partners from government, civil society, law enforcement, academe, and communities were supported and equipped to address threats to biodiversity, counter wildlife crimes, and enhance ecosystem goods and services derived from natural habitats.
Through Protect Wildlife, USAID supported the DENR and partners in applying and aligning important components—including campaigns, financing, policies, research, and enforcement—into conservation plans and actions. This holistic approach was closely implemented with project partners to ensure conservation results and best practices are sustained and scaled up.
For more than four years, Protect Wildlife worked with partners to achieve conservation milestones at the national level, as well as in project sites in Palawan, Zamboanga City, Tawi-Tawi, Sarangani, South Cotabato, General Santos City, and Central Luzon. The project supported individuals and institutions in enhancing key competencies—including conservation planning, environmental law enforcement, research and curriculum, and behavior change communication—as well as improved the processes and tools for carrying out their roles and responsibilities. These enhanced competencies were instrumental for partners in applying improved practices in conservation and enforcement such as in strengthening collaboration among agencies, producing science-based knowledge and tools, and promoting investments for sustainable livelihoods and natural resource management.
With these enhanced competencies and practices in place, DENR, USAID, and partners set a pathway toward a sound and sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources, a robust engagement in the fight against illegal wildlife trade and other environmental crimes, and improved behaviors and attitudes that would translate to positive actions for conservation.
Protect Wildlife Project Milestones
Around 750,000 hectares of biologically significant sites—including protected areas, forestlands, watersheds, mangrove forests, and coastal and marine areas—are benefiting from improved natural resource management and habitat protection, thanks to Protect Wildlife’s technical assistance.
Around 4,000 community members and local government staff were trained in integrated conservation and development to support their activities in protected area management and forest land use planning.
Around 2,300 individuals were trained in improved enforcement practices. This number includes community-based enforcers, forest guards, sea patrols, park rangers, government personnel, law enforcers, and prosecutors.
Protect Wildlife provided technical support to boost the implementation of local environmental laws and policies in project sites, and formalize enforcement protocols and procedures of partner agencies.
The project supported innovations in enforcement, including BRAIN, a platform that combines enforcement coordination, online permitting, and public reporting systems for Palawan Council for Sustainable Development; WildALERT, a system that helps DENR personnel and law enforcers in wildlife identification and wildlife crime reporting; and WILDBase, a centralized online database for systematic recording and monitoring of rescued wildlife.
Protect Wildlife worked with universities, graduate students, and conservation groups to pursue 27 researches focused on biodiversity conservation, including important wildlife studies on critically endangered species, such as the Philippine eagle, Philippine pangolin, and Sulu hornbill.
The project supported 19 colleges and universities in enriching their curricula related to conservation science and environmental laws.
Protect Wildlife initiated site-level conservation campaigns in protected areas and local communities, with a combined audience reach of more than 1 million, as well as national-level campaigns with an audience reach of more than 3.5 million. The project also trained 101 individuals in behavior change principles to help improve their conservation campaigns.
The project leveraged P368 million (US$7.6 million) of commitments from private and public sector partners to fund various conservation activities, including support for sustainable livelihoods, social enterprises, and conservation education and campaigns.
More than 95,000 Filipinos in Protect Wildlife sites have benefited from the project’s assistance. This includes improved incomes from support in nature-based livelihoods and community-based enforcement, sustainable sources of water and irrigation from properly managed watersheds, and new skills and opportunities gained from USAID-supported trainings, to name a few.