Guimaras Megafauna Tales

Fieldwork in Guimaras has been…completed.  Now in the big city across the Guimaras Strait, Bacolod, preparing for round 3 of Philippines fieldwork. Enjoying a hotel room with wifi, cable, and hot water…

Through our Local Ecological Knowledge interviews, we came across many accounts of marine megafauna in Guimaras…including:

– A dugong rescue.  The barangay had photographed the stranded dugong, which ended up being successfully returned to the sea.  They apparently had joked: “OK, dugong, if you don’t get back out there, we’ll just have to eat you!” to try to encourage the unfortunate animal to try harder. (Photo link below)

– Whale shark stranding. The barangay had old snapshots of the butanding, or whale shark, that had been stranded there in the 1980s or 90s.  We’ve gotten a lot of reports of stranded and entangled whale sharks, and part of me is becoming more and more intrigued by these massive animals.  There seem to have been a lot around Guimaras… (Photo link below)

– Dolphin slaughter and violence! So the story goes: in one barangay, the captain allowed the local people to slaughter and eat a stranded dolphin.  However, there was a Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) staff member in the barangay who vehemently opposed this (as he should have).  Being ignored by the captain, he reported the slaughter to the media.  Incensed, the captain shot and killed the DENR staffer.  Allegedly…it seems he was released quickly due to lack of evidence.

Dr. Parreno and her team at GSC have also been asking if fishers had any remains of marine megafauna, and they’ve found a number of skeletal remains as well as photographs.  In Malampaya Sound, too, I’d come across fishers who’d taken photos of stranded dolphins, though unfortunately the photos were not clear enough to be useful in matching the dolphins to the photo-ID database.  Educational campaigns could teach these communities how to report strandings and how to collect samples, take photos, and bury dead marine megafauna in a more regular way so that they could provide even more helpful information to researchers.  It’s exciting to see how interested many people already are in the marine megafauna that they come across, and strengthening links between these communities and researchers could harness the power of that innate interest.

Tracking down the past