The Museum Volunteers of the Philippines was founded in 1981 and is a non profit, apolitical, non-sectarian organization that focuses on bringing Filipino history and culture to a wider audience by providing aid to local museums. After reading the coffee table book Tubbataha: A National Treasure, the organization took interest in TRNP. On March 28, 2017 at the Ateneo Law School Amphitheatre, Tubbataha Protected Area Superintendent, Angelique Songco and volunteer scientist Teri Aquino shared a presentation on the management and science of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Ms. Tet Lara and Ms. Marissa Floirendo were also given a chance to talk about the contents of Tubbataha: A National Treasure and to share their inspiration which led them to publish the book.
PUERTO PRINCESA – In preparation for the scuba diving season, various agencies converged to discuss intensified security arrangements for the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, 09 February.
The group recognized that tourism is one of the main drivers of the Philippine economy and articulated the need to protect it at all cost. Commodore Allan Ferdinand Cusi of the Western Command presided over the meeting. Other participants were the 3rd Marine Brigade of Philippine Marines, the Naval Forces Northwest, the 570 Command Tactical Wing of the Philippine Airforce, the Philippine Coast Guard District-Palawan, the Provincial Government Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Office, scuba diving operators, and the Tubbataha Management Office.
18 August 2016 – The 1000th whale shark has been identified in Philippine waters, making the Philippines the third largest known aggregation of whale sharks in the world and the biggest in South East Asia, according to the online library Wildbook for whale sharks. Whale sharks are identified by their unique spot pattern, and scientists all over the world use this pattern on the left side of their body to distinguish between individuals. Researchers from the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) and WWF-Philippines have been adopting this technique for a number of years and together with submissions from the public the Philippines reached 1000 identified individual whale sharks this week.
The 1000th whale shark is an incredibly important milestone for the country and one which every Filipino can be proud of. Once coined as the capital of whale shark hunting in South East Asia, the Philippines changed the fate of the species in 1998 when it became the third country in the world to protect whale sharks under Fisheries Administrative Order 193. Since then, the population is showing signs of slow recovery. Today this iconic species attracts thousands of tourists every year and even features on the 100 peso bill.
However, dangers lurk in the surrounding seas, meaning that it is now more important than ever to protect these animals. Recently the species was upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a consequence of the historical and ongoing threat of illegal fisheries, particularly in the South China Sea, and the fact that whale sharks are animals that make large scale movements across international borders. Researchers from LAMAVE and the Marine Megafauna Foundation have been investigating the movements of Philippine sharks using satellite tags to better understand the implications of these threats to whale sharks encountered in Philippine waters.
The 1000th shark, was spotted by Mr. Jon Jon Rufino whilst diving in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Jon Jon sent the video to LAMAVE and the Tubbataha Management Office, as part of a citizen science project which encourages visitors to the park to contribute photographs and videos of their shark encounters to assess the biodiversity of the park. Jon Jon’s footage revealed that the shark is a juvenile male, similar in size to the juvenile sharks we see closer to shore in Donsol and Southern Leyte. Jon Jon’s encounter is one of an increasing number of sightings in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the past few years. To date Tubbataha Reefs have contributed a total of 65 individuals to the national catalog of whale sharks, with additional individuals pending upload. These figures highlight the importance of the park for the largest fish in the sea.
To mark this milestone, the 1000th shark will be nicknamed “Pangga” (short for “Palangga,” which means beloved) to honor the Philippines’ relationship with this enormous shark, which we hope will continue to be an iconic species for the country long into the future.
A video illustrating the full story and featuring LAMAVE Executive Director Jessica Labaja is available here:
The 1000th whale shark on WildBook for whale sharks is available to view here:
For further information, please contact Sally Snow at:
August 5, 2016, the adult female tiger shark tagged by LAMAVE and the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) has transmitted her location beyond the boundaries of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP).
The female shark, which has been nicknamed #tubbatahatiger is the first tiger shark to be fitted with a satellite tag in the Coral Triangle. The deployment of the tag is part of a study by LAMAVE and TMO to understand more about the range and habitat use of tiger sharks both within the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and outside this marine protected area (MPA). The information gathered via satellite will be essential in helping to manage the future of the species within TRNP and the Philippines.
The map gives us an insight into her movements, with each marker representing a transmission sent via satellite each time she swam with the dorsal fin exposed above the surface of the water. The markers located within the park (inside the purple boundary) show that she is moving between both the North and the South Islet as well as further offshore.
While only the beginning of her journey, these results already reveal the importance of developing large marine protected areas, such as Tubbataha Reefs, which offer more complete habitat protection for apex predators such as tiger sharks. However, her journey outside the park implies that if we want to ensure a future for these incredible animals in the Philippines, the species needs to be protected nationwide and not just within marine protected areas such as TRNP, which is currently one of the only places to see these amazing sharks in the Philippines.
Where will she go next? Have you seen a tiger shark outside of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park? Share your encounter with us and stay tuned for the next ping.
To further investigate the arrival of a masked booby (Sula dactylatra) in the Park and the egg found with it, two park staff set foot on the Bird Islet on 17 June 2016.
Park Ranger – Researcher Segundo Conales Jr. and Researcher Jeric Dejucos saw the masked booby incubating an egg during their previous visit just over a week ago. This time, it was a female brown booby on the very same nest, over the very same egg that they saw. The masked booby however was still there, standing its ground about a meter away from the nest.
They were able to measure the egg with a caliper and found it to be 6.2 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide. The park staff barely had a minute to do the measurements because the two birds immediately flew back to the spot together.
“We cannot conclude anything about the egg.” said Jensen, since there is no available literature about cross-breeding between the two seabird species. However, he is interested in this behavior and wonder whether the masked booby is acting as a ‘foster father’. “It’s going to be very interesting to learn how he (masked booby) will behave and feed this adopted baby.” added Jensen.
Until now, nothing is certain about the case of the masked booby as Mr. Jensen wants TMO to “see what comes out of the egg.” The egg is expected to hatch by the first half of July.
On the second working day of the 2016 Tubbataha turtle tagging and laparoscopy trip, I accompanied marine park rangers Segundo Conales, Jr., and Cresencio Caranay, Jr., of the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) on a special mission to the Bird Islet to look for nesting turtles. The Marine Resource Foundation – Malaysia (MRF), headed by Dr. Nick Pilcher, and TMO intended to install satellite tags on nesting turtles to determine their habitat range, hence the mission. From 11:30 p.m. of June 07 up to 06:00 a.m. the following day, we searched the perimeter of the islet for nesting turtles four times – to no avail.
Before returning to WWF research vessel, M/Y Navorca, our research platform, we decided to check on the masked booby (Sula dactylatra) sitting on the northeast portion of the islet. The bird appears to have chosen this area since early May, when it was first sighted after over 20 years of absence from the Park. Based on scientific descriptions of the species, ornithologists surmised in early May that the masked booby was male. But we noticed that it was sitting in the middle of a ‘nest’ fashioned out of twigs, feathers and grass.
On our approach, it became aggressive and stood. To our extreme joy, we saw that it had been sitting on an egg! The egg was oblong and narrower than other booby eggs. It had a dirt-like brown band running horizontally across the middle and some random black spots all over the shell. We estimated it to be six to eight centimeters long from each tapered end, and four centimeters across.
We were not prepared for such an encounter! By chance we had one mobile phone with a camera which allowed us to capture this one defining moment in the life of the reemerging masked booby and the history of the conservation of Tubbataha.
In our enthusiasm, we assume the egg belonged to the bird because of its dissimilarity to all the other seabird eggs on the islet. However, we did not see the masked booby lay the egg, leaving the possibility that it was not its own. Investigations are ongoing as marine park rangers confirm ownership of the egg. Nevertheless, we are delighted beyond measure of the possibility that the masked booby, formerly considered locally extinct, will breed and settle in Tubbataha once again.
Upon the request of Coast Guard District Palawan (CGD-PAL), thirty of its personnel are currently undergoing training to prepare them for assignment to the Tubbataha Reefs. The training puts a stress on marine conservation because it is the focus of their duties in the Park. The training also includes law enforcement protocols that apply to the Park. Interpersonal skills development is another topic that is discussed because being isolated in Tubbataha for two months with strangers requires good relational abilities.
CGD-Palawan, Pilipinas Shell foundation, Inc. (PSFI), and the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) provided counterpart funds to provide this capacity development opportunity for future marine park rangers in Tubbataha.