Fundraising on for eco-lodges in Kitanglad, bird watchers’ destination

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 Oct.) —  The Jeepney Projects Worldwide and the Birding Adventure Philippines (BAP) are raising funds to build new eco lodges in the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park buffer zone to help promote the area as a bird watchers’ destination, Dr. Felix Mirasol, provincial environment and natural resources officer (PENRO) said.

With over 125 species of birds,  about half of them endemic to the area, including the Philippine Eagle, Mt. Kitanglad is one of the favorite destinations of bird watchers, he said

Craig Steeley’s concept of the eco-pod courtesy of the

Mirasol told the Malaybalay City Tourism Board on Thursday that eco-lodges will be built so bird watchers around the world will continue to come over to see the Philippine Eagle and other birds in the park.

He said JPW and BAP will turn over the structures to the Bukidnon Daraghuyan tribe as the owner and operator.

JPW, with BAP as Philippine partner, describes itself in its website as “a partnering of benefit art projects and regional conservation groups working to inspire support and restore lost habitat of critically endangered birds.”

The group intends to build a main pod and two smaller eco pods for “birders, researchers and nature enthusiasts,” Mirasol said.

He told the Board that even before the JPW-BAP initiative, Mt. Kitanglad  has been known as a destination for enthusiasts from around the world. But it did not take off as it should because of the absence of an eco-lodge.

JPW and BAP describe the project as “an eco-lodge owned and operated by the Kitanglad community with international and local support and guidance.”

In his presentation, Mirasol explained that “one of the biggest trends in eco-tourism today is community-owned and operated lodges.”

“Vital to these lodges’ success is the empowerment, integration and participation of indigenous communities and international support,” he added.

Mirasol also informed the Tourism Board that the conversion of the forest buffer zone into commercial vegetable gardens has threatened the habitat of Mt. Kitanglad’s endemic birds.

BAP is headed by Nicky Icarangal, the premier Filipino bird guide who has an “extensive experience in leading tours in the Philippines.”

Mirasol said with Icarangal are “the more experienced tour guide members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP).”

According to their website, BAP “takes pride in its extensive knowledge of the local birding sites and bird species which is second to none among its peers. The tours are organized by local birders with a birdwatcher’s interest in mind– seeing the most and the best of the Philippines.”

According to the website of JPW, the eco-lodge will be designed by San Francisco, California-based architect Craig Steely.

Steely envisioned that each prefabricated pod is supported on a single pier foundation with supporting guy wires to allow each pod the flexibility to locate on any topography or relocate if required.

The website said the top prism has a fabric roof with screen walls while the lower prism is translucent corrugated with locally reclaimed wood walls. The pod can accommodate six people on two floors.

Mirasol, however, said transporting the prefabricated pods from abroad to the part would be problem since because of the six-kilometer dirt road to Lalawan, Dalwangan, this city.

Mirasol had raised this concern to the city government through the Tourism Board in its meeting earlier this month.

“Presently local farmers create income by slashing forest and eagle habitat, replacing it with grazing land for livestock and pushing the already dwindling Philippine Eagle population closer to extinction,” JPW said on its website.

“Carefully managed eco-tourism will create a stronger local and international awareness for the Eagle’s plight as well as the financial means to employ and subsidize the local residents. Ultimately, the goal is for the local people to see the value in stewarding the land and change their perception of the Eagle from a pest to an asset,” they added.  (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)