Protecting biological species, a serious concern
There is logic to the clamor by conservationists on passing a legislation to protect plant and animal species classified as endangered, threatened or vanishing. What the Philippines have are laws designed to protect select biological species. In other countries like the USA, policy-makers have passed the Endangered Species Act. The Act authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate likely species as endangered and are subject for federal government protection.
In the USA though, NGOs can submit petitions for certain species of plant and animal they believe should be protected by the federal. This participatory act of citizens of suggesting which species should be included in the endangered category, has made them ‘enemies’ of the Endangered Species Act. What then is the role of the American scientists on the issue of classifying which plant or animal species should be included in the list of endangered species?
There is a UN body that issues Red Lists of plant and animal species classified as endangered, threatened, vanishing, rare, etc. We are aware that the task of determining which species should be considered as endangered are better left to the plant and animal scientists – they are the rightful persons who are in contact with the organisms, more than the man in the street!
This writer is a member of a small group of Filipino scientists (taxonomists) designated by the UN body to submit names of rare, endangered, threatened or vanishing species of marine algae, including seaweeds. Algae are uni- to multi-celled organisms with plant characteristics found in salt water habitat. Two of the marine algae species this writer has included in the Red List was the red seaweed/sea vegetable he described as a new species, Porphyra marcosii Cordero (named after Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos) and one brown species named after him (Cordero) Sargassum corderoi Modelo, Umezaki & Liao, found only in Ilocos Norte and New Washington, Aklan, respectively. The inclusion of these marine algae is largely due to their limited area of occurrence – unreported elsewhere, so far! Consistent with the same reason stated above, all 4-5 new species that this writer had described and published, were included in the Red List, too!
However, it is the appeal by those in science (taxonomists specially or those who describes, verifies, and compares with species having ‘similar’ external and internal morphological characteristics), to the extent of examining the type species (original material used as basis for describing a new species), if only to be sure that the specimen he has on hand is an undescribed species. The same appeal extends to the general public who should be enjoined to protect and conserve endangered species from extinction.
Last month, one of this writer’s column treated on some rare species of animals (e.g. Philippine Eagle, Tarsiers, Hornbills, large fruit-eating Bats, etc.), found by three (3) young male teachers in the hinterlands (Brgy. Buenavista and vicinity) of Burauen, Leyte, that need to be protected from illegal hunters. As a student of science, this writer encourages the Burauen LGU officials to assess and document its wildlife resources, both plants and animals before they go extinct!
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By: Dr. Paciente Cordero,Jr.
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