Endangered wildlife, endangered humans
Five months of being barraged by scenes of war, death and destruction in Marawi City initiated by terrorists, a year and a half of groans and lamentations caused by thousands of drug-related killings, a scenario of a nuclear Armageddon from an Asian neighbor — and we cannot help wondering if we have perhaps become a nation of terrorized Filipinos, an endangered species. We have a front-seat view of — to borrow a movie title — a series of unfortunate events. Preservation of human life has been uppermost in our minds.
But even with all these, Manila hosted the United Nations conference of state parties to the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), a five-day gathering of some 500 delegates. It was the first time it was held in Asia, and we knew little about it while it was going on. CMS is short for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. It is also known as the Bonn Convention because it was in Bonn, Germany, that the Convention was negotiated in 1979.
Only after the meeting ended last week did we know more about it, and that 34 endangered species, among them the whale shark — the biggest fish in the world that also thrives and makes a home in the Philippines — were selected for stronger conservation efforts.
What is a migratory species? The Convention defines it as “one that cyclically and predictably crosses one or more national jurisdictional boundaries.” (So our endangered Philippine eagle—one of the three largest in the world—is not a migratory species.) Covered by the CMS are “mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and one insect… including many whales and dolphins, bats, gorillas, antelopes, albatrosses, raptors, waterbirds, sharks, sturgeons, marine turtles and the Monarch Butterfly.”
Some might wonder about all the fuss over migratory wildlife species while human lives are being decimated, exterminated, annihilated by their own species.
Well, there is a science to it (ecology) and a spirituality to it (creation spirituality). By now we know what the so-called “web of life” or ecosystem is all about, our interconnectedness as citizens of Planet Earth (magkakadugtong ang bituka). As singer-composer Joey Ayala keeps belting out, “Ang lahat ay magkaugnay, magkaugnay ang lahat.”
I never get tired of correcting those who demonize certain animals and make them represent the worst of human behaviors. Vultures are good: They clean out rotting carcasses that could spawn harmful diseases. Important, too, are the nonhuggable crocodiles, snakes and bees. When bees begin to disappear, this planet is in trouble.
So working to preserve endangered wildlife vis-à-vis preserving human life is a nonissue. The Manila conference theme was “Their Future is Our Future: Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People.” The meeting in Manila was the largest in the 38-year history of the Convention.
Going over the list of newbies on the CMS protective list is a treat for the imagination, with names such as Steppe Eagle, Asian Vulture, Sub-Saharan Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Christmas Frigatebird, Black Noddy, Yellow Bunting, Lesser and Great Grey Shrike.
The Giraffe, Leopard and Lion are on the protective list, so is “humans’ closest relative,” the Chimpanzee, the near-extinct Gobi Bear of China and Mongolia, the Caspian Seal, and so on.
“In total, 12 mammals were afforded greater protection under CMS, 16 birds and 6 species of fish. Listing on Appendix I requires governments of Parties to protect the species while Appendix II calls for international cooperation to ensure that the conservation status of a species is favorable.”
Yes, all these while humans — because of war, terrorism ethnic cleansing and political and ideological strife — are being driven out of their habitats, their lives threatened. But why not?
As Chief Seattle said: “Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every deer and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and the man, all belong to the same family.”
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