Discover Danjugan Island- the Philippines’ conservation pioneer

We saved an island…now we invite you to EXPLORE it.”

Photo via Danjugan Island Facebook page.

Danjugan Island, Negros Occidental. It’s like a mini Galapagos of Negros.

History

It was in 1974 when Gerry Ledesma, first visited Danjugan Island with some of his diving mates. Its thick limestone forests hosted many different kinds of birds and bats; its underwater was so clear with schools of fish and magnificent, intact coral reefs.  Scuba diving became popular and most divers then were spear fishers—and at the end of each dive day, tall stories were told about the sharks seen —there were tigers in the outer reefs surrounding the island and white/black tipped in the nearby reefs– and the big fish that got away.

Gerry Ledesma, Founder & President, Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. -PRRCFI

The early 1980s saw the decline of scuba diving due to the economic crisis brought upon by the government’s mismanagement of the sugar industry that most of the divers in Negros depended on.  1984 was a bad year too for Danjugan Island as Maricalum Mining Corp (MMC) stopped operations and its displaced workers started destructive fishing with blasting caps and cyanide from MMC.  The year also brought Typhoon Nitang that destroyed the shallow reefs of the island as well as in the entire foreshore of municipalities of Cauayan, Sipalay, and Hinobaan. The years of early to mid 90s emphasized the need for Danjugan’s conservation with episodes of logging and poaching and this finally provoked the offer to buy the island but Gerry didn’t have money. William Oliver, a British zoologist working on Negros endangered wildlife species, suggested contacting John Burton of the World Land Trust (WLT) whose thrust is the purchase of important biodiversity sites for conservation.  Soon, a noted marine scientist from the UK, Sue Wells, came to visit and not long after, Peter Raines of Coral Cay Conservation (CCC).  Then, an invitation to England for the launch of the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Project (PRRP) and within a month, a fund was transferred to PRRP for the down payment of Danjugan Island.

Third Lagoon, Danjugan Island. Photo via Liwanag Aristoza San Miguel.

The Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRCFI) was established to manage and operate the PRRP, as well as the conservation program based on Danjugan Island that was expanded to include Southern Negros Occidental.  Due to the ignorance of marine and wildlife conservation, the group piloted the 1st Youth Marine Camp in 1991 with their children and children of friends and relatives.  The camp had pleasing results and children from the village of Bulata were included in the subsequent camps.  Presently, the camps are conducted each summer as the Youth Marine and Wildlife Camp and with the Philippine Department of Education as the Danjugan Environment Education Project (DEEP).

Location & Biodiversity

Resting 3 kilometers southwest off the coast of Negros Occidental, Danjugan is a lush, 43-hectare island rich in marine and terrestrial biodiversity. This island, about 1.5 kilometers long and 0.5 kilometers at its widest point, has 5 lagoons and is covered with limestone forests providing asylum to many wildlife species that struggle to exist in the mainland.

Together with Sipalay City and the Municipality of Hinobaan, it forms the southern border of the province and is situated in the Sulu Sea, an important eco-region for marine biodiversity.  The island’s surrounding reef is under the Danjugan Island Marine Reserve and Sanctuaries with three Special Management Areas or No Take Zones established in 2000 through Cauayan Municipal Ordinance 99-52.

Photo via Liwanag Aristoza San Miguel.

Mangroves, a marine biodiveristy sanctuary in Danjugan Island.

It holds an incredible biodiversity given its small size. At least 72 bird species have been recorded on the island, including a nesting pair of White- breasted Sea Eagles Heliatus leucogaster that have been breeding atop Typhoon Beach Camp since 1974 and  Tabon scrub fowls Megapodius cumingi which are common around the island.

Lizard Fish (Synodus variegatus)

Commercially important marine invertebrates such as the giant clams (Tridacna crocea, T. squamosa and Hippopus hippopus) are observed in the reefs. A restocking program for the endangered Tridacna gigas is being implemented in collaboration with UP-MSI. Other commercially important invertebrates observed are Abalone (Haliotis asinine) and Spiny lobster (Panulirus spp.) The endangered coconut crab (Birgus latro) still occur in the coastal and mangrove forests of the island. The western beaches of Danjugan Island are known nesting sites of the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Green Sea Chelonia Mydas Turtles. There was one sighting of a Dugong in the past while sightings of dolphins are common within the municipal waters of Cauayan which is a migration path of some larger marine mammal species.

Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program

Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program

Increasing environmental awareness in the youth has been one of the major priorities of PRRCFI. The Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program (DEEP), funded by the Foundation of the Philippine Environment (FPE), endeavors to teach Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change Issues and Values to teachers and elementary/highschool students of Cauayan, Sipalay and Hinobaan municipalities in Southern Negros. These are where the last remaining good coral reefs in Negros Occidental remain. DEEP attempts to inspire to teach students to be stewards of the environment.

Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program

Danjugan Island Environmental Education Program

The DEEP was implemented starting June 2011. In the two years that it was executed, it aimed to address the shortcomings of environment education by delivering modules on biodiversity, marine and terrestrial wildlife awareness, climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainability, and principles of responsible ecological stewardship to select public school teachers, students, barangay councils, and BLGUs.

To date the program has reached out to at least 14 schools in the project sites, over 800 elementary and high school students, and over 50 barangay officials from 3 BLGUs. Members of the LGUs that were participants of the program also developed work plans to implement marine protected areas and more effective solid waste management plans in their communities. The success of DEEP is evident in the greatly positive response and continued support of the Department of Education in Region VI, which has also recognized DEEP as an official co-curricular program for schools in the SNCDP area.

Genuine green ecotourism

“We saved an island…now we invite you to EXPLORE it.”

Danjugan Island is now open on a limited capacity basis for visitors, to experience ecotourism at its purest: learn about the biodiversity within the area, its conservation efforts, eco-friendly facilities to include eco cabanas, solar powered electricity, communal served meals based on native cuisine and seasonally-available local produce and services offered by the locals within.

Typhoon Beach House. Photo via Liwanag Aristoza San Miguel.

Make a difference and travel green to Danjugan!

You may also support its programs in environmental conservation and education when you visit. For more information and and travel assistance about our Green Travel Exchange and Green Hotels stay, contact us.

The Danjugan Island is part of our Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development Inc.-SSTDINegros Occidental initiative, the sustainable tourism development & stewardship program for the province.

Our Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development Inc. -SSTDI offers Capacity Building and Training programs  to public and private stakeholders, host communities and grassroots in sustainable tourism development & stewardship to include Good Governance, Climate Change Mitigation Disaster Preparedness and ManagementWaste to Energy projects are offered to LGUs for their ecological solidwaste management and renewable energy solutions. For more information and assistance, contact us. 

SSTDI is proud to be part of the Founding Board of the ASIAN ECOTOURISM NETWORK and 

The International Ecotourism Society

Photo Credits: Photos of Danjugan via its Facebook Page & Liwanag Aristoza San Miguel as captioned.

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