West Visayan Big 5
The West Visayan Big 5 are a collection of species endemic to the West Visayan Faunal Region which includes the islands of Negros, Panay, Masbate, Guimaras, Ticao and Cebu. These 5 species are not only some of the most charismatic and endangered within this range, but their life histories and ecology comprise different niches and many of them act as ecosystem engineers within the various forest and grassland habitats of the region. Using these “Big 5” species as flagships for conservation subsequently provides holistic protection of the habitats, ecosystem functions and other underrepresented species that share these habitats.
Visayan Spotted Deer
The Visayan Spotted Deer is the largest mammal in the West Visayas Region. The body of this species is brown with characteristic gold or beige spots across its back and sides. The males have impressive large antlers that are used for fighting amongst each other for dominance of area and mating rights.
Formerly found across the entire region, they are now only found on the islands of Panay and fragmented on Negros. The reason for this decline is a combination of targeted hunting for meat and trophies, and loss of their preferred forest habitat.
In the wild these deer feed on native fruits, leaves and branches of native trees, grass shoots and flowers. Although they are anecdotally known from grasslands, they are currently found in montane forests and the research conducted by Talarak has identified that the species is very adept at living within dense forests.
Visayan Warty Pig
(Sus cebifrons negrinus)
The Visayan Warty Pig is the second largest mammal in the West Visayas which was also previously found across the entire region. However due to hunting pressure and the encroachment of people into the warty pig’s habitat, they have also been restricted to only the islands of Negros and Panay, with potential populations remaining on Masbate.
Within these islands the warty pigs are still under threat, listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. These threats include hunting for food, persecution by farmers, and forest habitat loss.
Warty pigs vary from light grey to black with long or short hair depending on their habitat and diet. Named after the facial warts found on the faces of the males, both sexes having a distinctive white stripe across their snout.
Male warty pigs have large tusks protruding from the side of their jaws which they use for combat, and are known to have characteristic manes or mohawks which are most prominent during the breeding season.
As with other pig species, the Visayan warty pig eats many different things in their natural habitats including; fruits and leaves, tree bark, invertebrates and other small animals, or carcasses.
The wild behaviours of this species are poorly known, however the research being conducted by the Talarak Foundation has illuminated some intricate social behaviours, and family oriented separate female groupings and male groups.
Visayan Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini)
The Visayan Hornbill or Visayan Tarictic Hornbill is one of two species of hornbill found in the West Visayas. The males are black and white across the body with the females all black having a flash of blue around their eyes, both with an orange and white band across their tail.
As with many hornbill species they feed predominantly on forest fruits and leaves but do occasionally eat small animals and invertebrates.
This heavy inclusion of fruits in the diet make hornbills excellent seed dispersers and integral to the health of forests in the Philippines.
The Visayan hornbill was formerly found across the entire West Visayas but is now restricted to Panay and Negros.
The primary threats to these hornbills are poaching for sport and the illegal pet market, and habitat loss. Hornbills require a combination of fruit bearing and large bodied trees to thrive within a habitat, leading them susceptible to population declines as habitats are degraded.
With the removal of large trees from legal and illegal logging activities there was a severe reduction in the necessary cavities for nesting. This has left this long lived species without an ability to successfully reproduce in many areas where they still exist.
Negros Bleeding Heart Dove (Gallicolumba keayi)
The Negros Bleeding Heart is a small dove species previously found across the West Visayas but now restricted only to Negros and Panay. As a lowland forest dwelling species these doves have been pushed to near extinction with deforestation and human encroachment across Negros.
Despite not knowing much about the life history and requirements of the species, it is suspected that the Negros bleeding heart would have a similar diet and feeding behaviour to the similar sized Emerald Dove and other native fruit doves, foraging on the forest floor for small fruits, seeds and insects. Observations of bleeding heart nests have identified it to require small shrubs and palms, where they make simple twig/branch based nests on the tops of large leaves approximately 1-2m above the floor.
Rufous Headed Hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni)
The larger of the two hornbills species found in the West Visayas. The Rufous Headed Hornbill (also known as the Waldens or Writhed Billed Hornbill) is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List and thought to be one of the rarest hornbills in the world.
The Rufous headed hornbill is characterised by the males rufous (reddish/orange) head and neck which fades to yellow at the face. The bodies of both male and female are all black, their bills are red with prominent red casques/horns that are larger in the males. However the discerning colour difference between male and female is the rufous neck only on the males, and the facial colouration, with the face being yellow in the males and blue in the females.
As a large hornbill some of the key habitat features required for the species are; 1) year round supplies of medium-large fruits and small animals (including rodents, lizards, snakes and other birds) for food, and 2) large trees which have spacious cavities inside for the female to nest and the young to develop.
Due to the specific habitat requirements needed and their desirable appearance these hornbills have been severely affected by poaching and habitat loss in the region. Their current stronghold is on the island of Panay however there may be small remaining populations on Negros island.