#KeepThemWild: Corporate Social Responsibility program for mobilising resources for the illegally-traded, confiscated and surrendered wildlife

Long-tailed macacque at the Wildlife Rescue Center
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Quezon City, Philippines (13 April 2019) – 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, Faber-Castell, Wildlife Rescue Center (WRC) of Biodiversity Management Bureau, Haribon Foundation and the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center 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 marked lack of resources to maintain the wild animals housed in the center. NAPWC Protected Area Superintendent Nelson Castillo stated that “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 comes in maintaining them and providing their needs. We are a government facility and we have limited budget even though more and more animals are being brought to us.”

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Through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs of CBTL and Faber-Castell, #KeepThemWild aims to raise funds for the confiscated illegally-traded and surrendered wildlife’s needed refurbishment of homes, particularly for the construction of a pasture area inside the WRC for herbivore wild animals. The construction of the pasture requires at the amount of Php 200,000 (USD 3,827.50). Funds will be sourced from the registration fees of the participants.

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Haribon Volunteer conducting the Tree Walk (Photo Credits: Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center)

The Philippines is one of the 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 conserve this, 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, the country remains a biodiversity hotspot because of illegal wildlife trading, massive habitat loss, human encroachment on wildlife habitats, and pollution, among other causes.

Last March 3 was the United Nations World Wildlife Day celebration, a yearly event which aims to raise awareness on the importance of and dangers facing the world’s wild animals and plants. One of these threats is illegal wildlife trade, a major driver of biodiversity loss globally. It is estimated that the Philippines loses Php 50 billion (USD 1 billion) per year due to illegal wildlife trade, according to the World Bank’s Global Wildlife Program (GWP). This includes that should have been paid by illegal wildlife collectors and traders, the market value of resources involved, the ecological role of the wild-collected resources and the damage to their habitats incurred during poaching.  

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A serpent eagle inside one of the cages at the Wildlife Rescue Center (Photo credits: Biodiversity Management Bureau)

Being a consumer, source, and transit point for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts threatening endemic species populations, economic development and biodiversity, the most traded species in the Philippines include: the Philippine forest turtle (critically endangered), Palawan Pangolin (vulnerable), Hawksbill turtle (critically endangered), Blue napped parrot (vulnerable), Southeast Asian box turtle (endangered), Hill mynah (vulnerable), Asian leaf turtle (endangered), and Tockay Gecko (not listed).

#KeepThemWild’s first of four rounds was a success. A total of 41 of adults and kids participated in an educational tour inside the WRC and the Park. CBTL sold tickets at Php 500 (USD 10) 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 which taught the participants how to identify native trees inside the Park and how important these trees are. The BMB staff acted as tour guides.

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Dr. Glen Maguad, resident wildlife veterinarian, sharing the stories of how each of the wild animals ended up at the WRC

Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Glen Maguad of the WRC shared how the Center tries to advocate for people to avoid illegal-trading and/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.  

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Tote bags with the participants' hand-painted artworks of endemic wildlife 

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 that “… 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 Corporate Social Responsibility programs as well as with non-government organizations such as the Haribon Foundation are essential in achieving the biodiversity targets of the country.

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Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez, Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau talking about the importance of keeping the animals wild

Implementing the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), the country’s roadmap to conserving its biodiversity, costs PhP24-B/year or PhP334-B (USD 7.4-B low estimate) from 2015 to 2028. However, public expenditure was estimated at only P4.9-B/year (USD 110-M) thus the gap of almost PhP 19-B (USD 349-M) annually was determined. Several finance solutions to address the gap were identified and are being piloted by BIOFIN at present.

#KeepThemWild contributes mainly to achieving PBSAP Target 18 which aims to raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity as well as the threats to it and the benefits of protecting it. The activity also supports PBSAP Target 1 (improving conservation status of nationally and globally threatened species) and 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. According to a survey conducted by the League of Corporate Foundations in 2015 to 2016 among 62 foundations, total CSR expenditure for 2015 amounted to PhP 2.75-B (USD 52.6-M) with an annual expenditure of PhP 500,000 to PhP450M per foundation. In terms of the CSR sector involvement, approximately 6 in 10 respondents are active in the environment sector (63%) while almost all are engaged in the education sector (90%).

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Note: Exchange rate is USD 1 = PHP 52.25