Gold, the Philippine cockatoo rescued from starvation in 2016, is now breeding in Dumaran town. // Image from the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program


Conservationists working on the endangered Philippine cockatoo that are found only in Palawan are celebrating the successful reintegration into the wild of a rescued bird they had named “Gold”.

The biologist couple Peter and Indira Widmann of the Katala Foundation Inc. said that the bird, rescued from near starvation back in 2016, is healthy and fully integration and has began to breed in its natural habitat.

“This is one success story we are proud of. To rescue hatchlings is a decision tough to make and the great challenge is releasing them back to the wild and monitoring whether they are accepted by the wild flock. So far we have been lucky in Dumaran with our re-introduction since the integration of the released birds is well accepted by the wild individuals,” Peter Widmann, who heads the foundation’s Species Conservation Program, said.

Image from the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program

Named after the color of her leg band which bears the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 055-16 registry code, Gold only weighed only 60 grams when she was rescued.

“We have done supplementation of the natural population in Dumaran since 2014 to help the aging population of existing cockatoos on the island. Rescued katalas either from starvation or persecution or poaching, after rehabilitation at the Katala Institute in Narra and if found fit for release, are done in Dumaran,” he added in the statement.

He said birds undergo the soft release program where they are acclimatized to the natural environment, fed with natural foods, and learn basic training to avoidance to predators and careful monitoring.

Peter said Gold came back to Dumaran in August 2016 and was released to the wild in January 2017. The supplementation is also a way of improving the genetic diversity of the species.

After the rescue of Gold and four other hatchlings from Dumaran, they were brought to the Katala Institute in Narra town where they were provided proper care and rehabilitation with permits from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), he said.

Michael Plazos, who serves as field officer of the PCCP in Dumaran, said to witness them flying and now successfully breeding is “just incredible and overwhelming”.

“Our collective decision to rescue was worth all the hassle. It is just a great relief,” Plazos was quoted in the statement.

Maximo Pineda, who takes charge of checking Gold’s nest, feels fulfilled knowing Gold and the others were able to integrate with the wild population.

Gold finally bred with a healthy hatchling this year, he said.

“It is so exciting for all of us wardens here on site,” Pineda said, adding all their efforts to track and monitor them in each occupied nest tree paid off.

The other important factor that brings success to the story is the awareness and vigilance of Dumareños in participating to monitor the released birds.

“Once they see birds so close to the people, they report immediately to their officials and then to our field team. Gold has also been initially sighted in close proximity to people, but finally now is able to make his own family in Dumaran in the wild,” Peter said.

In Dumaran, the local government through Mayor Arnel Caabay’s leadership is supportive of the PCCP and has approved this year another round of appropriation for wildlife wardens to continue their conservation work, the statement said.

The KFI said it is grateful to the long-term commitment of its funders, especially during this COVID crisis – LPF (Spain), ZGAP (Germany), Chester Zoo (UK), Fondation Segré (Switzerland), Beauval Nature (France), Wildlife Reserves Singapore, individual donors, and other organizations.