Mt. Hamiguitan, Range Wildlife Sanctuary

Subscribe Now January 29, 2012 at 01:08pm

Imagine a spectacular range of mountains covering a 6,834-hectare of total surface area of several forest-type characteristics harboring endemic, threatened, rare and economically important species of flora and fauna. Visualize that within 225 hectares of this lush sanctuary thrives a rare mossy-pygmy forest with century-old wild trees growing to an average height of only four to five feet.

The stunted growth of such unique vegetation is due to the soil’s high concentration of minerals like chromium, iron, nickel and magnesium. An Almaciga (Agathis philippinensis) has the highest average height of only 2.4 m. Other abundant species are Cedar, Lokinai, Yakal, Dapdap and Bitanghol. Within this area dwells an amazing hidden lake, or Tinagong Dagat as well as others falls and creeks.

The Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary has been declared by the Philippine government in July 2004 under the Republic Act 9303 as a protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary. Located in Davao Oriental in Mindanao, it is a priority site for conservation as designated by Conservation International in view of its high level of biodiversity and unique and significant biological and physical attributes. It became a component of the Philippines’ National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) pursuant to R.A. 7586 of 1992.

Hamiguitan spans two municipalities and one city, namely, the municipalities of San Isidro and Governor Generoso, and the City of Mati in the Province of Davao Oriental, at altitudes ranging from 170 to 1,637 meters above sea level.

This protected sanctuary belongs to 15 biogeographic zones in the Philippines considered to have the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area, including the largest and most unique area of ‘pygmy’ forest with century-old trees thriving in a highly basic ultramafic soil rich in minerals. It is nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List for its outstanding universal significance of possessing high and varied ecosystem with many endangered, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna.

Hamiguitan is home to the threatened majestic Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). In a recent inventory and assessment, the forest has been found to have high endemic species of plants, trees, shrubs, herbs and vines, not to mention new records of discovery in Mindanao and the Philippines.

Sadly, several mammals have been observed to be threatened and vulnerable: The Golden-crown Flying Fox, Philippine Tarsier, Philippine Warty Pig, the Philippine Brown Deer, the Philippine Mossy-pygmy Fruit Bat; and the Asian Palm Civet. Likewise, endemic species of birds like the Philippine Cockatoo, Dark-eared Brown Dove, Tarictic Hornbill, Grey-hooded Sunbird and Giant-scoop Owl are endangered or vulnerable.

The presence of globally threatened species and the discovery of site-endemic pitcher plants, new species of butterflies and the newly discovered Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat (Batomys hamiguita) —a yellow-brown rodent with a long furry tail thriving in dwarf, mossy forests – all the more prove how the nominated property possesses outstanding universal value, a high biodiversity “hotspot” in the Philippines.

The management system is being managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Protected Area Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippines.

Board Member Justina Uy started the conservation and the preservation of Mt. Hamiguitan when she was still mayor of San Isidro many years back. In 2008, Provincial governor Corazon Malanyaon pushed to have it recognized and placed in the tentative list of nominated properties of UNESCO World Heritage List when the presence of the rare pygmy forest drew attention as a natural heritage.

The mystical wild garden in the middle of nowhere sits serenely in cool weather, as if it was pulled out of an enchanted fairytale book, shrouded in mist for more than a century, perhaps. Many trekkers come to visit and explore the environment in awe and wonder.

Today, it is now the Davao Oriental’s new flagship tourism destination.

The province’s capital town, Mati, can be reached from Manila and Cebu via daily scheduled airline flights to Davao City. From Davao City, Mati is accessible by a three-hour private car ride or a four-hour public utility bus ride on fully concreted or asphalted highways. Visit the tourism office for trip schedules to the forest.


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