In support of conserving the pangolins (balintong) of Palawan, a University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) freshman BS Forestry student has made a leaf art using the gentle mammal as an inspiration to help raise awareness against its illegal trading and other critically endangered wildlife species.
Mike Allen Gabinete, 19, whose family hails from Aborlan town in southern Palawan, said he made the balintong leaf craft as a project output for their Biology of Forest Plants subject laboratory exercise.
However, he made it with a purpose — to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and protection from trafficking.
“I chose the pangolin for the reason that I have seen the news about it kung saan they’re being poached po for their scales and high-value meat. I was inspired by that news that’s why I decided to create an art to depict the pangolin to raise awareness on how important they are sa ating ecosystem,” he said to Palawan News in an interview Friday morning.
“I also want to make people become educated about wildlife conservation po,” Mike added.
Mike said he used dried star apple leaves to bring his pangolin art to life to, in his own way, help drumbeat awareness against the trafficking of the mammal for their scales and meat.
Star apple leaves abound in the UPLB area, he said, and they somewhat resemble the color of the balintong.
“Kasi po abundant siya dito sa amin and yong color ng leaves ay almost the same as balintong,” he said.
“Actually, I planned to make an image of the Palawan bearcat, pero since wala akong nakitang black leaves, nag-isip ako ng ibang endangered Palawan animal and yong pangolin nga yong naisip ko,” he said.
He said he is aware that in the province, the endemic Palawan pangolin (Manis culionensis) is a victim of wildlife trafficking.
“This output was done to raise awareness on the importance of pangolins sa ecosystem natin. They also deserved to live the lives that they have been given and to fulfill their important roles in keeping the balance in the ecosystem,” Mike added.
According to an article published recently by Mongabay, the critically endangered Palawan pangolin, found only in the province, is one of the most trafficked animals on Earth, with its population declining by up to 95% between 1980 and 2018.
They are in high demand for their scales in China and Vietnam because they are believed to have medicinal properties.
“My artwork was made not only for requirement purposes but also to raise awareness on the importance of wildlife conservation. Like human beings, animals also have lives and a great part of our ecosystem. That’s why we should give proper care and treatment to them for they really deserve it. Always be considerate to other living creatures at huwag lang sariling kapakanan ang isipin,” he said.
Mike’s artwork is still with him, he said. He only submitted pictures of it to his professor.