DENR urged to declare areas of newly discovered insect, plant species as critical habitat areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 March) – A group of scientists who recently discovered new species of weevil in Marilog District here and hoya plant in Valencia City, Bukidnon urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to declare as critical habitat areas the areas where they were found.

Milton Norman D. Medina, director for Qualitative Studies of the University of Mindanao (UM), told “Wednesdays at Habi at Kape” that critical habitat areas are reserved for research, experimentation, and preservation of the critically endangered and endemic species.

“The threat of these species is the rise of human population in the area. The challenge that we have is that most of the villagers in the area did not know the importance of these species,” he said.

Medina, a taxonomist, said the new species Hoya reyessi, which is named after Dr. Ricardo Reyes, a plant grower and hobbyist who discovered it in 2014, grows on the riverbanks in Valencia.

“The Hoya reyessi is found along the banks. Their presence is an indicator of moisture content. If we could see plants thriving in this area, then there is abundant supply of moisture,” he said.

If not protected, he said the destruction of the newly-discovered plant species will cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.

A press briefer described Hoya reyessi as “having a thick rounded succulent leaves without prominent central margin, smaller corolla, glabrous on central and puberolous at dorsal side, ovaries having no apical lip-like structure or end modifications, and variation in the size of pollinia.”

Hoya is a plant genus under Apocynaceae, a family of flowering plants that include trees, shrubs, herbs, stem succulents, and vines commonly known as Dogbane family. Hoya reyessi is one of the 300 known species in the world.

Of the 300 recorded species, 160 are found in the Philippines, according to Milton.

“Particularly, this would cut the food chains, affect the food supply, and economy in the future. What we can recommend to the DENR is hopefully to establish a critical habitat for endemic species,” he said.

Medina discovered the Pachyrhynchus miltoni, a new species of weevil in Marilog District, and was named after him.

“They are distinguished from the other beetle families by their long snout or rostrum. In the Philippines, one of the most conspicuous weevils are members of the genus Pachyrhynchus. They have this bright, iridescent and unique pattern of elytral markings which make them very attractive and interesting not only to entomologist but also beetle enthusiasts and collectors,” he said.

Analyn A. Cabras, a biodiversity researcher at UM, said this genus “has a Philippines centered distribution with more than 90 percent endemicity for its species and most species are endemic to a single island or mountain range.”

She said the specimens were discovered “morphologically including their genetalia which is the basis in delineating species” and compared it with other related species.

“This beetle is just 13 millimeters and is found in the shrubs along the road going to the forested area of Brgy. Baganihan,” she said.

She said that it was unfortunate some of the villagers are doing some “kaingin” (slash-and-burn) destroying the insect’s natural habitat.

“Such threat is important since beetles belonging to the genus Pachyrhnchus have a restricted habitat which is confined only to forested ecosystem or forest ridges. Thus, the on-going habitat destruction can be considered great threat to their existence in the wild. And since they have a Philippines centered distribution, their extinction can affect global mass extinction,” he said.

She said the weevil species is in real danger because there are collectors who poach them in the wild and sell them to Japan and parts of Europe. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)