Reintroduction

The Philippine Cockatoo was originally found on all major and hundreds of smaller islands within the Philippine archipelago. Mainly due to poaching and loss of lowland habitat, populations collapsed by the end of last century, and the species now only can be found in a handful locations. Possibly the only viable populations are now those managed by Katala Foundation and its host government units.

On Rasa Island, a small coral island near Palawan the cockatoo population has made a dramatic recovery within more than 20 years of project implementation. The cockatoo population on this small island may be at or close to carrying capacity and therefore could serve a source for birds for re-introduction into the historical range of the species, without endangering the resident population.

Ten rescued and hand-raised nestlings in 2005 were used for an experimental reintroduction, as requested by the DENR. The experiment had to be terminated and birds were recaptured, because they were strongly imprinted on humans. The project was documented and analyzed, and it became apparent that even heavily imprinted birds were able to adapt well to conditions in the release site, including foraging for natural food and discriminative avoidance of terrestrial and aerial predators.

In the meantime, KFI upgraded its facilities to accommodate rescued birds with minimum contact to humans and improved hand-raising protocols. In 2010, four cockatoo nestlings were rescued, hand-raised and released back to Rasa Island. The birds survive to the present day; they show natural avoidance behavior towards humans and are fully integrated into the wild flock. More experience was gained through the supplementation of the local cockatoo population on Dumaran Island with rescued birds.

In early 2010 the first workshop on best practices for re-introduction was conducted with participants from concerned national government agencies, local governments and conservation NGOs. Technical backstopping during the preparation was sought from the IUCN Re-introduction Specialist Group. Main results were documented and a quantitative tool for site selection and evaluation was developed. Since then almost thirty sites were assessed and scored for their suitability for cockatoo reintroduction. The highest scoring site situated in the municipality of Del Carmen on Siargao Island is since then prepared for the actual reintroduction. Since this involves habitat restoration (especially with food-providing plants) and involvement of the local population to prepare them for the return of the cockatoos after many years of absence, this is a long and ongoing process.