When you think of a conservationist haven, the last place you would think to look is in the urbanized city of Bacalod on the Visayan island of Negros. Yet, the Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation Incorporated (NFEFI) centre and its rare inhabitants live in the heart of the city. Why visit this tiny conservation centre? To see some of the most endangered animal species in the Philippines while supporting ethical animal tourism!
It all started in 1984 when a group of concerned Filipino citizens started a ‘Save our Forest’ movement in response to agricultural development and logging that decimated Negros’ rain forests. This lead the NFEFI to become a non-governmental organization that now focuses on reforestation initiatives and ex-situ conservation practices that include captive breeding of endangered animals endemic to Negros .
Ex-situ conservation is when groups work to preserve plants and animals in places that are outside of their natural habitats, like in a zoo or a botanical garden . The NFEFI uses captive breeding programs as an insurance policy to prevent endangered animals from extinction in the wild.
This is no easy task. Ex-situ conservation is costly and the success rate is not always high. One reason is that you need an adequate habitat that is sufficiently protected by the law or by security forces for their survival [3,4]. Considering that only 4% of Negros’s primary forests are left on the island, it is evident that there is an extraordinary amount of work to be done. To combat deforestation NFEFI have reforestation initiatives in addition to their biodiversity center. Another issue they face is that the animals must be mature enough to survive in the wild before it is possible to re-release them [3,4]. It’s not like you would force a baby bird out of its nest to fly when its feathers haven’t even come in.
When you have limited funds, you make do with what you have. The NFEFI operates on donations and has established captive breeding programs with other zoos around the world that sponsor their efforts .
Even though their facility and enclosures are small, the NFEFI does a good job of trying to emulate the natural environment inhabited by the enclosed animals in order to make their animal inhabitants feel more at home. Luckily this particular challenge is lessened by the NFEFI’s location. As most of their animals are native to Negros, they do not have to put in artificial arctic or African environments to make their animals feel at home.
In the wild, animals allot a large portion of their time and energy to foraging for food. In contrast, when animals are in captivity, food is provided which results in a decrease in stimuli and an increase in the need for activity . Basically, animals have nowhere to spend all their energy. This leads to animals developing stereotypic behaviors. These are behaviors which are repetitive and have no obvious goal or function . Some examples of these behaviors include pacing, head rolling, excessive licking, feather or hair plucking, overactive displays of aggression, and lack of appetite .
By enriching their habitats with planted trees, mulch and the occasional enticing object (toys), the NFEFI has worked hard to keep the animals happy. None of the animals observed showed any stereotypy. Beyond that, almost all the enclosures had refuges where the animals could hide if they felt stressed by the presence of humans. The one problem the NFEFI is faced with is lack of space. While I was visiting, they were in the process of expanding and building a couple more enclosures. However, they still had limited space and funds to work with. This is one of the reasons why the reintroduction of captive animals into the wild is so important. It allows zoos to free up space within the zoo to breed more inhabitants or to take in more rescue cases. Plus, it puts animals back where they belong: in the wild!
As NFEFI is a non-governmental organization, its space and funds are small. However, one can admire their tenacity when it comes to making do with what they have. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t had successes! In 2013, they welcomed a new baby Visayan Spotted Deer which is classified as Endangered by the IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) .
In addition to that, they have also bred four adorably cute Warty pigs (Sus cebifrons negrinus) which is the most threatened wild pig species in the world .
The NFEFI has also done some fabulous work with birds such as Hornbills, but most among their most acclaimed work is their conservation efforts for the Luzon and Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeons. These pigeons are are adorable in that they are completely monogamous for life which may be a reason they have a patch of red on their chest, signifying a bleeding heart. That may be one of the main reasons that NFEFI has made it a mission to ensure that these bird species populations do not decline [9, 10,11].
If you are in Bacolod, support ethical animal tourism. The Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation Inc. is working hard to ensure that these beautiful creatures do not go extinct through public education and their captive breeding program. Show some support by paying them a visit, it’s only 25 Philippine Pesos for an adult! It’s worth it to see the endangered animals and they deserve the attention! Besides, the best conservation starts when your heart bleeds a little.
If you aren’t able to make it to Bacolod, visit their website to find out more and to donate today!
 Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Incorporated. (2017). About NFEFI. Retrieved from: http://www.negrosforests.org/about
 Jamaica Clearing House Mechanism. (2017). In Situ and Ex Situ Conservation Methods. Retrieved from: http://www.jamaicachm.org.jm/BHS/conservation.htm
 Gomez, C. (2013, July 13). Bid to Save Spotted Deer in Negros bears fruit. Inquirer Visayas. Retrieved from: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/444229/bid-to-save-spotted-deer-in-negros-bears-fruit
 Kleiman, D. G. (1989). Reintroduction of captive mammals for conservation. BioScience, 39(3), 152-161.
 Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Incorporated. (2017). Our Partners. Retrieved from: http://www.negrosforests.org/ourpartners
 Keiper, R. R. (1969). Causal factors of stereotypies in caged birds. Animal Behaviour. 17, 114-119.
 Morgan, K. N. & Tromborg, C. T. (2007). Sources of stress in captivity. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 102(3), 262-302.
 Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Incorporated. (2017). 4 More Warty Pigs born at NFEFI facilty. Retrieved from: http://www.negrosforests.org/4-more-warty-pigs-born-nfefi-facility
 Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Incorporated. (2017). Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon. Retrieved from: http://www.negrosforests.org/negros-bleeding-heart-pigeon
 Wildscreen Arkive. (2017). Luzon bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba luzonica). Retrieved from: http://www.arkive.org/luzon-bleeding-heart/gallicolumba-luzonica/
 Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo Education Volunteers with assistance from the Fall 2005 Ornithology Class at State University of New York. (2006). Luzon Bleeding Heart Pigeon. Retrieved from: http://rosamondgiffordzoo.org/assets/uploads/animals/pdf/LuzonBleedingheartPigeon.pdf
If any of this information is incorrect or needs to be updated, please let me know! Science is about learning from errors, making changes and moving forward!