AN official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday urged the public to help protect migratory birds against unscrupulous individuals who see them either as pets or food.
“These birds are for [our] eyes to see and appreciate. They are not for food or pets,” said Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon, the concurrent director of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau.
Calderon has issued a public advisory announcing the annual bird migration season.
During the southward bird migration season, the Philippines is visited by thousands of migratory birds to escape the cold weather and take refuge in warmer regions.
The birds stop briefly to feed and rest in wetlands—swamps, marshes, intertidal and coastal areas, rivers, ponds, lakes, as well as forests throughout the country.
Hunting of wildlife is illegal and punishable under the provisions of Republic Act 9147, or the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, or Wildlife Act, Calderon said.
The annual southward bird migration season begins in September and extends until February of the following year. During the period, the DENR and its partner conduct the annual bird count as part of a global effort to monitor their population.
During the annual bird count, Calderon said, DENR partners—bird watchers and photographers—are also expected to document the number of birds and species that visited the Philippines.
“We are more excited to see critically endangered species, or new species of birds, being recorded or photographed,” he said.
Calderon warned the public that hunting them for the illicit pet trade, or for food, is also “unsafe” as there is a possibility that the birds are carriers of diseases, like the dreaded avian influenza, or bird flu virus.
Transfer of the virus to domestic birds eventually can endanger the country’s highly vulnerable poultry industry.
Migratory birds are also ecosystem indicators. These birds tend to stay only in areas where there is plenty of prey to feed on—insects which show that an area is ecologically healthy—and safe.
The Philippines is a signatory to the Bonn Convention, or the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and the Ramsar Convention, which aims to protect wetlands of international importance—feeding grounds of critically endangered migratory bird species.
The Philippines has several Ramsar sites, including the the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, a popular bird-watching site in Metro Manila that is threatened by proposed land-conversion projects in Manila Bay.