EL NIDO, Palawan – A signature drink in a cocktail bar in this town called “The Pangolin” is hoping to raise funds to help save the vanishing population of the Palawan pangolin (Manis culionensis) in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Philippines.
The Pangolin Cocktail Bar and the ZSL Philippines announced their pangolin conservation partnership on February 15 during the celebration of the 9th World Pangolin Day here at the El Nido Protected Area Office (ENPAO).
The conservation project is called “Balik Balikon: Balikon Paramihin, Kalikasa’y Pagyamanin”, which aims to closely study the Palawan pangolin in Taytay municipality.
Diyosa Mercado, the proprietor of The Pangolin Cocktail Bar, said they are pledging 20 percent of the sale of their signature cocktail to fund ZSL Philippines’ conservation and research efforts.
“When my husband and I were just starting out our business in El Nido, he was especially interested in pangolins. Since I grew up in El Nido, my husband asked me if I had seen a pangolin. I said, yes, I have seen plenty of pangolins as a child. My husband told me that these creatures were actually endangered because of poaching and illegal trade. This is why we set up The Pangolin Cocktail Bar, in order to help save these animals,” said Mercado.
Mercado said aside from its local name “balintong,” the nocturnal creature is also known as “balikon”, hence the name of the ZSL Philippines project.
“The world pangolin day is being celebrated around the world every 2nd Saturday of February every year. And this year, it falls on the 15th of February. We already planned this event before the illegal trading of the pangolins in Barangay Pasadeña happened. Many pangolin enthusiasts celebrate this day to create awareness,” Mercado said earlier.
She said their bar was conceived to raise awareness for the local diversity, specifically the endemic Palawan pangolin, which is the most widely poached mammal but is unknown to many tourists in El Nido.
Mercado said it they want their cocktail bar to be with a purpose, to be caring about wildlife protection.
“As local stakeholders, we are mindful about how wonderful the Palawan island is in terms of biodiversity and we intend to protect and preserve our island home and its creatures. Undeniably, there is a need to create concern amongst the locals and visitors about not to further contribute to the climate crisis that is scalable, hence our methods in operation for the pangolín bar are plastic-free, mindful and environmentally friendly,” she added.
Mercado said aside from donating the fund they will collect quarterly to the ZSL Philippines, they also agree to conduct whenever possible other fundraising events, do save Palawan pangolin campaign drives and support ZSL’s #OneLess campaign against ocean plastic pollution.
She said ZSL Philippines and The Pangolin Cocktail Bar will use the funds that will be raised to engage communities by raising awareness about pangolin conservation, empowering the locals to stop pangolin poaching by offering alternative livelihood, and others.
In exchange, the ZSL Philippines will help in promoting The Pangolin Cocktail Bar and its wildlife conservation advocacy and will serve as its technical consultant on Palawan pangolin conservation.
ZSL resident pangolin specialist Lucy Archer, in her presentation, talked about the behavior and ecology of the long-snouted and shy wildlife species.
“Pangolin behavior and ecology actually make it difficult to study and monitor pangolin populations. They are nocturnal, solitary, and non-vocal, which makes them hard to monitor. All eight of pangolins all over the world suffer not only from declining populations but also very little attention in terms of research,” Archer said.
“We surveyed 18 municipalities all over Palawan and asked locals whether they have seen a pangolin. We had a good turnout because nearly 80 percent of the participants could positively identify a pangolin,” she added.
Charity Apale, project manager for the ZSL Philippines based in Puerto Princesa City, said they launched the Balik Balikon, hoping to gather data for legislators in order to establish a pangolin protection policy in the province.
“We launched Balik Balikon to gather data for legislators, even the local governments of El Nido and Taytay, in order to establish a local pangolin conservation effort. We really wanted to have an on-site community project to protect the pangolins. The locals will be managing the area, together with the LGU and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD),” said Apale.
Among the guests during the event in El Nido was Voltaire delos Angeles, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office Taytay/QRT team leader and forest technician who headed the group responsible for the rescue of 20 live pangolins in Brgy. Pasadeña recently.