By ERWIN MASCARIÑAS
JASAAN, Misamis Oriental – Seventy-seven year old Rodulfo Dael and his wife Alma took it upon themselves to protect lizards in Jasaan for 16 years now.
“Back then, we know and have seen these lizards out in river’s edge and sometimes along the grass and vegetated area but they have been very elusive. But in 2002, while we were eating at our porch, three small lizards appeared. We threw a banana at them and then they started eating. After that, they kept on coming back on our porch, facing the river. Eventually, we came to love the lizards and it has been our advocacy to protect them,” said Dael.
He said many people came to hunt the lizards down. “They would kill them using rifles or handguns or even homemade weapons and sometimes, they would come and wait under trees where they would rest and use nets to catch them in vast numbers. I would go out and try to fight the hunters off or shout at them when they are on the other side of the river,” said Alma.
The Protected Area Management and Biodiversity Conservation Section (PAMBCS) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 10 together with the Misamis Oriental government is pushing for the river area here to be declared as a critical habitat for the Philippine sailfin lizard.
Ranoray Love Noro, section chief of PAMBCS-DENR-10, said their office is now pursuing the final stage in pushing for the declaration of an area in Jasaan town as a critical habitat.
“We are now finalizing the steps to have this area along the lower Solana River in the town of Misamis Oriental declared as a critical habitat for the Hydrosaurus pustulatus or the Philippine sailfin lizard, commonly known as ibid. So far, the provincial government of Misamis Oriental, as well as the local government of Jasaan, have been very supportive to have this declaration in place to help safeguard and protect this unique area where the sailfin lizards thrive,” said Noro.
Noro said the process was initially pushed by the provincial government and then it coordinated with PAMBCS.
“After the province coordinated with our office, we immediately moved to collect the necessary data and then the process needed to have the declaration. Soon, we will be able to submit the requirements to our central office in Manila with the endorsement and support from the barangay level, municipal and the province,” said Noro.
Donato Bojo, zoology technician at the PAMBCS, said they are optimistic that the declaration would come in a few months.
“We have already finished our survey. We are now in the final stages in completing the mapping of the area. We will then submit all the data to Manila, and then have the declaration signed. Hopefully, we would be able to get about three-hectares along the Solana River, 20-meters area along the other side of the river as part of the protected area under the declared critical habitat since houses are not yet occupied the area. On the other side where you already have the concrete dike and the houses, hopefully, the residents will be able to help us with the implementation,” said Bojo.
Bojo estimated about 100 fully grown lizards in the area.
Lawyer Jeffrey Saclot, provincial tourism officer of Misamis Oriental, said, “The province is working with the DENR to hopefully have the area declared as a critical habitat enabling further legislation for the protection and conservation of the species. It will also pave a way for the site for a sustainable eco-tourism destination as we are planning to build a view deck along the river area for visitors to get a glimpse of the lizards.”