The Philippine Archipelago is widely acknowledged as one of the world's major biodiversity and endemism ‘hot-spots’. However, as a result of a burgeoning human population increase and resultant destruction and exploitation of the native forests over the past half century, the Philippines has gone from being one of the most biologically rich areas on earth, to one of the most endangered. Nowhere else in the world has this decline taken place so rapidly. Once, the Philippines had virtually a 100% forest cover, now this figure is down to less than 10%. The significance of this to Philippine owls cannot be overstated. This country has more threatened owls than any other part of the world, and of the 16 species recorded from this archipelago, 14 are almost totally dependent upon this habitat. Unless something is done quickly to protect the last few remaining forest remnants and replant those lost, virtually all of the Philippine owls, and certainly the endemic species, will soon join the New Zealand Laughing Owl Sceloglaux albifacies in the ranks of extinct birds. In an attempt to rectify this situation the World Owl Trust signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Philippine Government to manage the ‘Philippine Owl Conservation Programme’ as part of the overall ‘Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Programme’ overseen by Fauna & Flora International. This has been very successful in carrying out field research, education and conservation-breeding programmes focused on some of the threatened taxa. Another major objective is to involve the local people in conservation initiatives by means of education, providing employment and alternative life-styles.
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Vol. 97 • No. 4