Cleopatra's Needle mountain casts a rugged triangular shadow onto the sky in a beautiful sea of low-lying clouds in this undated photo taken by the Centre for Sustainability PH.
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The National Geographic Society (NGS) USA is funding a nine-day scientific field training expedition for 17 indigenous and lowlander community enforcers to study endangered and endemic plant and animal species in the deepest areas of the 41,350-hectare Cleopatra’s Needle critical habitat in Puerto Princesa City.

Cleopatra’s Needle, the Philippines’ biggest declared critical habitat by sevenfold since 2017, is home to countless undiscovered flora and fauna and home to the indigenous lands of the disappearing Batak tribe.

Karina May Reyes-Antonio, co-executive director and co-founder of the Centre for Sustainability (COS) in the Philippines, said in a press statement Wednesday that national scientists from the Natural History Museum of the Philippines (NHMP), University of the Philippines (UP), University of Santo Tomas (UST), Biodiversity Conservation Society of the Philippines (BCSP), and the Holistic Education and Development Center (HEDC) will teach enforcers how to conduct independent Biodiversity Monitoring System (BMS) surveys in the conduct of patrols around the forest reserve.

The scientific training expedition will be from April 17 to April 25.

“This means they will learn how to collect scientific data, conduct research sampling, and handle and preserve specimens as they move around patrolling the forest,” Antonio said in the statement.

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After the expedition, specimens collected will be deposited in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) as national patrimony and data findings will be shared with local communities, government agencies, and academe.

The science training expedition is executed under the Knowledge is Power to the Forest (KPF) project, an initiative being championed by a small group of millennial Palaweños in the Centre for Sustainability PH.

“To reduce dependence on outside experts to understand the biological importance of their local area and their vital water supply, the initiative is supported by the local government unit of Barangay Binduyan and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO),” said Antonio.

The KPF project will cover two Field Training Expeditions, a Communication Training, and an Information and Education Campaign, where enforcers will apply all the training they will learn by sharing expedition findings in public presentations to their communities and other key decision-makers for better and informed management and enforcement efforts of the Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat.

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Meanwhile, City ENRO chief Atty. Carlo Gomez said the scientific training expedition will help upgrade the capabilities of the local community in protecting Cleopatra’s Needle.

“This will help enhance the knowledge and capability of the local community and other participants in the protection and conservation of the resources within Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat,” the statement quoted him in saying.

Cleopatra’s Needle was declared a critical habitat by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) under Resolution No. 17-612 per Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources and Conservation Act.

The forest reserve is also the Philippines’ last remaining primary forest, Puerto Princesa’s highest mountain, location of the largest watershed, home to countless and endemic flora and fauna, and domain of the last 200 members of the Batak indigenous peoples.

The Centre for Sustainability PH, Inc. is a female-led non-profit environmental organization working on sustainable community development in Palawan. Its mission is to contribute to the establishment of terrestrial and marine protected areas with an integrated approach incorporating three key areas: Livelihood, Education, and Conservation. Their flagship initiatives include the Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat and the Saving the Almaciga Tree projects.

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