Iwahig Forests

Philippine Cockatoos have long been known to persist in the Iwahig Penal Colony south of Puerto Princesa City. More recently, flocks of cockatoos from Iwahig Penal Colony are observed foraging in coastal areas of Puerto Princesa City, particularly in locations where remnants of coastal forests persist.

Intact lowland and hill forest in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
A rare bulldog bat (Mops sarasinorum) caught in Iwahig forests

Extensive evergreen and semi-evergreen lowland forests exist at the foot of the Victoria Anepahan Range, south of the Bay of Puerto and in the Iwahig Penal Colony. Particularly the latter area is of outstanding conservation importance. All endemic lowland bird species are recorded from the area. Globally threatened species, aside from the cockatoo, include Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Blue-headed Racquet-tail, Palawan Hornbill, Red-headed Flameback, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Falcated Wren-babbler, and Palawan Flycatcher. Because of the abundance of brackish and freshwater wetlands Iwahig Penal Colony is an important wintering ground for water birds, including the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Rapid biodiversity assessments yielded a wealth of little-known species, and even records of so-far undescribed freshwater fish species.

Katala Foundation implements a nest protection scheme with focus on cockatoo and other cavity nesters in the area in close cooperation with the Bureau of Corrections. For the first time in years, cockatoo can fledge from their nests without being poached. An indication of this success is the increasing number of cockatoos foraging in the city of Puerto Princesa. Most of these birds are young non-breeders as indicated in the colored leg bands, which Katala staff put when they were still in their nests in Iwahig.

Iwahig forests are increasingly important for the water supply of Puerto Princesa

Due to easy access of the area, illegal activities are increasing, including, squatting, timber and wildlife poaching. Katala Foundation has organized a roundtable discussion involving Bureau of Corrections, and concerned government units and agencies to assist in improved law enforcement and natural resource management in the area and a Memorandum of Agreement is forged among DENR, PCSDS, IPPF and KFI as its legal framework. Already degraded areas are reforested with trees form the nursery in the Montible prison sub-colony.

Non-breeding cockatoos roost and forage in Puerto Princesa city proper

Since cockatoos get in closer contact with people, once their numbers are increasing as an effect of the conservation measures, prevention of conflicts with humans is of high priority. Awareness campaigns were stepped up by Katala Foundation, including radio programs, school and community visits, as well as an annual festival to make as many people as possible aware of the rare parrot species in their midst.