Mother Nature on Danjugan Island

by Jens Peters

The little island of Danjugan is about 125 km south-west of Bacolod, nine km north of Sipalay and three km west of Bulata. It's 1 km long and 500m across at its widest point, hilly and covered with a thick blanket of green. Seven different kinds of mangrove grow in lagoons here. On the south-east coast you can find deserted sandy bays, and on the west coast beautiful white beaches which are visited by hawksbill turtles during egg-laying season. Several caves provide shelter and roosting places for lively swarms of bats, and the rain forest echoes exotically to the cries of about 50 species of bird, including white breasted sea eagles, grey headed fishing eagles, herons and kingfishers as well as providing a welcome rest stop for many migratory birds. In 2000 the island and the waters surrounding it were designated a nature reserve (Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries - DIMRS), but there was a tortuous build-up to this, to say the least:

In the mid-1980s, the gold and copper mines run by the Maricalum Mining Corporation east of Sipalay began to spiral deeper and deeper downwards into financial difficulties. As a result, many of the miners who had been made redundant were forced to change their job and become fishermen. However, in their desperate struggle to make a living, the thoughtless use of dynamite and cyanide in their fishing caused enormous damage to the underwater world round the coast. Danjugan Island, surrounded by coral and with an extensive reef to the west of the island, was especially badly hit by this wanton destruction.

Active conservationists from Bacolod sounded the alarm and managed to bring about the end of these illegal fishing practices. With the financial support of the British World Wide Land Conservation Trust (WWLCT) they bought the island in 1994 and handed it over to the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc (PRRCFI), which had been set up to save Danjugan Island. Their first move was to build a camp for caretakers and ecologists on this precious and endangered natural haven for wildlife. One year later, the London-based company Coral Cay Conservation Ltd (CCC) allied itself with this exemplary project for the effective protection of the environment and ever since then has sent volunteers to research and conduct surveys of the local marine life. Keenly interested Philippine students are also often guests at the camp to learn what they can about the ecosystem of this tropical island in workshops lasting several days. As there is only room for 20 visitors, it's necessary to register first with the PRRCFI in Bacolod; Tel. (034) 4411658, @. An overnight stay at the camp costs P2556, including meals. Day visitors pay P1050.