The devastating effects of the typhoon “Nitang” upon the West Visayan island of Negros in September 1984 were aggravated by the denuded natural forest cover. Facing the prospect of further logging and forest encroachment, several businessmen and landowners decided to take the initiative to protect and preserve what was left of the forests. In October 1986 the “Save our Negros Forest Movement” was formalised in the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Incorporated (NFEFI). This is a non-profit making, non-governmental organisation dedicated to protect, conserve and restore the Negros environment and to safeguard the sustainable use of its resources for the present and future generations.

Seventeen years on, NFEFI has a remarkable record of achievement behind it. Starting from nothing they have created an organisation which is active at several important levels and is widely respected for its honesty and integrity by both the local community and national officials.

negfor2-6405723 The scale of the rapid and wholesale destruction of the Negros forests is made clear by the picture on the left. Today, probably less than 3½% of the original primary forest remains intact. The consequences of this forest denudation were made excruciatingly clear with typhoon “Nitang” as torrential rain washed straight down the bare hillsides, carrying sparse topsoil with it into the sea. River estuaries silted, homes were washed away and livelihoods destroyed. NFEFI realised that due to the lack of forest cover the very water supply for the city of Bacolod was also in danger. They devised a plan to protect the remaining trees on the watershed area above Bacolod and started an educational campaign among the local people to make clear the importance of the forest cover. Policing the remnant 1,200 hectar watershed against illegal logging is beyond the resources of NFEFI and they rely upon government troops and police for this basic protection. Every week a team of educationalists journey to the watershed and meet the local people, giving talks and showing pictures to explain the importance of maintaining the forest. Due to the philippine habit of slash and burn agriculture the thin forest soil is soon exhausted and families spend few years in one place. On the watershed there are many abandoned farming plots which were once virgin forest before the (illegal) clearing took place. Now, in concert with local groups, NFEFI is replanting these areas with indigenous trees so that the forest will be regenerated. Both on the watershed and at the center in Bacolod NFEFI have been supported by several funding agencies including Artists United for Nature (now called Earth Link), but there is still much to be done and long term planning and financing is needed if the successes are to be consolidated and the forest area substantially increased.
Forest protection and restoration is only one side of NFEFI’s activities. The West Visayas constitute a unique faunal region and Negros is home to many animal and plant species which are found nowhere else in the world. Due to habitat destruction and hunting pressure many of these species are under severe threat and some are close to extinction.

The larger mamamals and birds are particularly threatened by these adverse factors. The Spotted Deer (Cervus alfredi), Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) and the hornbills (Penelopides panini panini and Aceros waldeni) were once common throught the West Visayas, but are now extinct on the islands of Cebu, Siquijor, Guimaras and Masbate. The situation on Negros is critical with isolated populations estimated to total fewer than 200 for the mammals and less than a dozen individuals for the birds. Without help these species are doomed.

Taking the Spotted Deer, declared by the IUCN as the most endangered deer in the world, as their mascot NFEFI obtained a site in Bacolod for a “Rescue Center” for these animals. With technical and financial help from Fauna and Flora International (FFI) in the U.K., Zoo Mullhouse in France, the Zoological Society for Population and Species Preservation (ZGAP)in Germany and others, NFEFI has instigated captive breeding programmes for both the Spotted Deer and the Warty Pig. The Spotted deer programme, started on July 1st, 1992, has been successful, the first captive bred fawn being born in Bacolod on November 20th, 1996, and with the cooperation of the DENR (the Philippine Environment Ministry) small populations have been established in Europe to act as genetic reserves. In the West Visayas there are now breeding centers in Dumaguete, Iloilo as well as in Bacolod.

The breeding programme for the Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) has taken longer to reach maturity, but thanks to donations of animals from local inhabitants things are beginning to happen.

On November 17th, 1997 NFEFI inaugurated the Biodiversity Conservation Center at Bacolod with guests from France and Australia. Building on the experience of the past few years this center will expand its facilities to cope with the increasing number of endangered species. Due to the efforts of William Oliver of FFI the first new seven aviaries for hornbills, Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeons and endemic parrots were completed in August 1998.

Since then, the Conservation Centre has blossomed with enclosures for the Sail-fin lizards, 1999


new enclosures for the Warty-pigs.
This is Jojo, donated by a local businessman.


for hawks, 2000


and Philippine Eagle owls in 2002


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