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UPAAA-NSW holds seminar on Philippine wildlife conservation

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The University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Australia – New South Wales Chapter (UPAAA-NSW) commemorates its 30th anniversary with a Seminar Series on a wide range of topics. The first of the Series was on “Skilled Migration and Carer Visas”.

On 29 May 2010, Dr. Corazon Catibog-Sinha, the recipient of the UPAAA-NSW Outstanding Alumni Award on Environment, presented a seminar entitled “Beauty and the Beast: Philippine Wildlife Conservation”, the second in the Series. Dr. Sinha, the first Filipino PhD graduate in Wildlife Ecology and an active member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has a deep knowledge of the biodiversity issues in the Philippines not only as a researcher and professor but also as a government administrator/regulator with the Philippine Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau before migrating to Australia and joining the academic staff of the University of Western Sydney.

The topic fits well with the celebration of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity and the City of Blacktown’s theme for its Annual Festival. The audience at the Function Centre of Blacktown’s Max Webber Library was treated to a colourful slide show of the unique, dangerous, rare, and threatened wildlife species in the Philippines.

The audience was awed by the fact that the world’s largest eagle, the Philippine Eagle, and the smallest buffalo, the Tamaraw, as well as the only freshwater crocodile in the world, Crocodyus mindorensis, are all found nowhere else in the world except in the Philippines. The Philippine tarsier, the most primitive and probably the world’s smallest primate, and the parasitic Rafflesia, the largest single flower, and numerous other interesting tree frogs, reptiles, and orchids are found in the country’s rainforests. The Philippine marine waters are also the home of whalesharks, humpback whales, dugongs, dolphins, and sea turtles. The coral reefs fringing the 7,1000 islands and referred to as the “rainforest of the sea”, shelter a huge variety of marine organisms which include the giant clams, numerous corals, sponges and countless tropical fish. The Verde Island Passage in south-western Luzon was declared by marine international scientists as the “center of the center of world’s marine biodiversity” after discovering the exceptionally rich variety of fish found in this water channel.

The Filipino audience felt national pride and even nostalgia in knowing the richness and uniqueness of their home country. One said “I never realized that our country, although small and poor, is so rich in natural heritage that we should all be proud of.” Sadly, the Philippines is on the global conservation ‘hotlist’ because many wildlife species are at the brink of extinction.

There was a sense of renewed vigour among the audience to do something, one way or the other, to help ensure that the country’s natural heritage is not lost forever. Indeed, the UPAAA-NSW Chapter has the opportunity and challenge to help halt biodiversity loss in the Philippines. One such humble contribution is a full scholarship grant to be awarded to a BS Biology student with a major in Ecology at UP Mindanao.

For enquiries about this seminar topic, please contact Cora Sinha at c.sinha@uws.edu.au or the Executive Committee at info.upaaansw@yahoo.com. The next seminar, this time about “Women’s Health”, will be held on 22 August, details to be announced. For more information about UPAAA-NSW activities or membership, please email or visit the website http://upaaanswchapter.multiply.com.

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