Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Subic learns to deal with monkey business

By Anthony Bayarong - Manila Times

SUBIC BAY Freeport: Smuggling,shabu, second-hand SUVs, accidental deaths of workers at the Hanjin shipyard, and a 22-story high-rise apartment built in the middle of the forest are the few issues that made the news in Subic.

This time monkey business is the issue, quite literally involving the monkeys in the free ports rich and diverse wildlife, which is one of its biggest tourist attractions.

Nature and development sit side-by-side in this free port, Ameth Dela Llana-Koval, manager of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) explained, adding that it is not unusual for one to see snakes or wild boars crossing roads, or long-tailed macaque monkeys entering housing areas and raiding trash bins.

And this has been a problem recently as some residents and locators have lately expressed concern about wild animal becoming too comfortable with people.

According to Koval, they have been receiving some complaints lately, mostly about monkeys becoming too aggressive in their foraging, overturning garbage cans and invading properties.

This problem has prompted SBMA to team up with Wildlife in Need (WIN), a non-profit organization undertaking habitat protection and restoration, community-based action programs, public education, and professional training for wildlife protection.

We just have to learn how to deal with situations when we encounter wild animals, said WIN President Gail Laude, who presented a slideshow to residents and locators describing the appearance and behavior of wildlife endemic to the Subic Bay Freeport.

Laude said it would be advisable for residents and visitors here to know how animals look like when they are afraid, defensive, confused or angry, so that untoward incidents could be avoided.

Monkeys, for example, bare their fangs when they are afraid, Laude said. But you would know they are really angry when you see them pull their lips back at the same time that they show their fangs.

Other animals, like the monitor lizards, swish their tails when they are defensive.

Laude said that the best thing that people should do when encountering wild animals is to stay at a safe distance and to leave them alone.

Another rule, she added, is not to feed the wild animals, and to secure trash bins in order not to attract wild animals.

Laude said her organization believes that even with the fast-paced development of Subic, wildlife protection and conservation would still be possible in this free port where boundaries have been set to ensure that development will not creep into the habitats of wild animals.

There will always be that kind of conflictthe competition for space, Laude said, adding that there is a way for humans and wildlife to live together and have enough space and freedom.

Koval clarified that while there is now a growing demand for residential and commercial spaces in Subic, the SBMA makes it a point not to sacrifice nature for industrialization.

She added that of the 55,102 hectares of land in Subic, the SBMA has classified a 3,000-hectare area as core ecological zone that environmentalists refer to as a no-development zone.

This serves as a wildlife sanctuary for the 122 animal species and 745 plant species that can be found in Subic, she added.

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