The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) together with the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-BMB) concluded the Protect Wildlife Project through an online exit conference held on March 23, 2021- the Php1.2 billion ($25 million) USAID-funded project primarily aimed to reduce the major threats to Philippine biodiversity, such as poaching and illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products, and to enhance ecosystem goods and services. The project was implemented in various provinces in the country, to wit: a) province of Palawan, b) Sulu Archipelago, including Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi province, c) General Santos City, Sarangani, and, d) South Cotabato provinces in Southern Mindanao.

All throughout the four and half year- implementation, USAID ensured the sustenance of the project’s impacts in achieving success through the ecosystem approach sought to address threats to biodiversity while enabling rigorous integration of conservation outcomes with development objectives, supporting strong local ownership, and ensuring that lessons learned are applied at scale.

With coordination from partner agencies and various sectors, the project initiated strategies to achieve their objectives towards biodiversity conservation. Consultations and reviews were conducted resulting in approved policies, management plans, and technical guides to improve the competencies of local and national government agencies. Training and capacity-building activities were likewise spearheaded to enhance the capacity of regional wildlife handlers and other technical staffs of the DENR Wildlife Rescue Centers (WRCs) as well as to further enhance the capabilities of law enforcement officers in enforcing biodiversity conservation-related laws and policies. Apart from that, online systems and applications such as WildALERT and WILDBase systems were developed for systematic and organized monitoring of rescued and trafficked wildlife in the country.

Consequently, the turnover of the first-ever wildlife ambulance in the country highlighted the significance of their contributions especially in initiatives concerning wildlife conservation and protection. The aforesaid ambulance is equipped with tools for wildlife handling and tagging along with on-site veterinary examination to hasten response time in wildlife rescue and retrieval operations, providing immediate treatment for rescued and trafficked wildlife.

Amelita DJ. Ortiz, Assistant Director and Officer in Charge Office of the Director of the DENR-BMB extended her sincere and deepest gratitude to the USAID Protect Wildlife Project for providing support and assistance to improve and enhance the capacity of the Bureau and other DENR Regions. She highlighted how valuable these contributions are and hopes for more projects and collaborations in the future.

During the exit conference of the Protect Wildlife Project, Atty. Theresa M. Tenazas OIC-Chief of Wildlife Resources Division conveyed her utmost appreciation for the donation of USAID through the project for WildALERT and WILDBase systems, which were developed as mobile tools to help curb wildlife crimes and achieve successful prosecution. Atty. Tenazas also mentioned that “the assistance of the project does not only capacitate enforcement officers but also the DENR WRCs which will essentially improve the DENR’s services in protecting wildlife resources.” Tenazas further explained that “Wildlife Resources Division as the implementing Division of the Project and direct recipient of all the donated mobile applications, wildlife ambulance, xray machine, ultrasound, animal handling equipment and tools and other office equipment will be able to sustain the project’s initiative towards biodiversity conservation because of these contributions of which we are very grateful.”

In the same exit conference, the USAID Protect Wildlife Project Chief of Party Rebecca Paz also expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the BMB for the four and half years of partnership and friendship and hopes that they have contributed significantly to the advancement of biodiversity conservation programs in the Philippines. She further underscored that despite the existing challenges in biodiversity conservation, they are earnestly still willing to provide their assistance when needed.

Congratulations to the people behind USAID Protect Wildlife Project and to the fruitful and successful collaboration with BMB.