Connecting communities and marine conservation
THE Philippines is home to an unparalleled variety of marine life— and the gentle dugong is among the most lovable. Malita, a seaside community in Davao del Sur, has become a sanctuary for these gentle marine mammals, which keep seagrass beds healthy through their constant browsing. Food fish, such as samaral and danggit inhabit sea- grass beds.
Also known as sea cows, dugongs were once common throughout the country—until destructive fishing and coastal development destroyed the vital sea- grass beds they needed to thrive. By 1990s the gentle animals became rare sights.
Dugongs are among the flagship species protected by the World Wide Fund for Nature ( WWF-Philippines) and are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable. The fate of the country’s dugongs lie in the hands of seaside communities, like Malita.
IN 2011 leading wireless services provider Smart Communications, PLDT’s wireless unit, partnered with WWF-Philippines to encourage citizens to help save dugongs and other creatures in the Davao Gulf, which includes Malita.
Smart implemented its Textto- Donate service, an SMS- based donation platform that empowers over 46 million Smart and Talk ‘ N Text subscribers to contribute to WWF’s biodiversity conservation programs using their mobile phones. Funds raised through this platform were used to conduct environmental education sessions for students, parents and community members in Malita. Project Connect highlights the connection between people and nature—and how caring for the sea ensures fish for all, forever.
“Apart from helping increase environmental awareness, we hope to be able to urge communities to take action and do their part as stewards of the environment through our Project Connect learning sessions,” Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto said.
WWF- Philippines taught 600 students from the Mariano Peralta National High School and Fishing Village National High School about endangered species recently. The session focused on the uniqueness of marine species, like dugong, whale sharks, sea turtles and dolphins; the species’ vulnerabilities to human actions; and the responsibility of humans in conserving our shared home.
The students were also taught the importance of technology in research and conservation, information dissemination, as well as in rescuing stranded species.
Community members of Barangay Fishing Village were also treated to a lesson on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day. The session trained the community to respond properly to marine mammal strandings, which cause the deaths of thousands of whales, dolphins and dugongs yearly.
Teacher Maye believes awareness is very important for today’s conservation stewards. “When we start to make children and community members appreciate how the relationship of nature and humans benefit each another, we create a society of informed citizens who can be frontliners in protecting what this country should be proud of.”