Archived 2012-2013 topics: Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia): what is the population trend over the past three generations?

BirdLife species factsheet for Philippine Cockatoo Philippine Cockatoo Cacatua haematuropygia is restricted to the Philippines. It is currently classified as Critically Endangered under criterion A2bcd, on the basis that it has suffered a population reduction of ≥80% over the past three generations (c.39 years) as a result of the extensive loss of its lowland habitat and trapping for the cagebird trade. This has also resulted in near-total harvest of nestlings and consequently recruitment is extremely low. In 1950, it was common throughout the Philippines, but a rapid decline has left an estimated population of 370-770 mature individuals, roughly equivalent to 550-1,200 individuals in total (P. Widmann in litt. 2012). Of these, there are 440-700 on Palawan and its satellite islands, “several hundred” or 100-300 in Sulu, it is possibly extinct on Mindanao, and there are fewer than 20 individuals recorded in the Polillo group of islands and Samar respectively. Subpopulations away from Palawan and the Sulus are mainly tiny and have few long-term prospects. Conservation efforts are underway at five sites where it has recovered considerably; including on Rasa Island near Narra, Palawan, where the population increased from 20 in 1998 to over 200 in 2008 and to 280 individuals by 2012 (Widmann and Widmann 2008, Anon. 2010, Widmann in litt. 2012). A record breeding season in 2011 saw 75 young banded; since the start of a nest protection scheme on Pandanan in 2008, the cockatoo population there increased from c.40 birds up to 110 (P. Widmann in litt. 2012). Given that many populations in the oceanic Philippines are extinct and some protected populations are increasing, it is expected that the population decline of this species will slow down further in the future. If suggestions that the decline over the past three generations (c.39 years) is no longer ≥80% are confirmed, the Philippine Cockatoo would most likely be eligible for downlisting to Endangered under criterion A2bcd of the IUCN Red List, having undergone declines of 50-79% over the past three generations. Further information is requested on the likely population trend of this species in the past, future or both. Did the bulk of the population crash take place between the 1950s and early 1970s, thus falling outside the most recent three generation period? Or were there still more than c. 3,000-5,500 birds in 1974, and thus the decline over the past 39 years has probably been at least 80%, supporting the current classification as Critically Endangered? References: Anon. (2010) An encouraging expansion of the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme. Cyanopsitta: 24-25. Widmann, P. and Widmann, I. L. (2008) The cockatoo and the community: ten years of Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme. BirdingASIA: 23-29.

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One Response to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia): what is the population trend over the past three generations?

  1. Peter Widmann says:

    Interviews with trappers and farmers indicate that Philippine Cockatoos were considerably more common at least until the early 1980s in Palawan, Mindoro, Polillo, Mabate, Samar, Bohol, and Siargao, indicating that the dramatic decline occurred later in this decade.
    Pressure on the few remaining populations is presently mounting. In the past year alone there were attempts to establish a large-scale bio-fuel population in cockatoo habitats on Dumaran, and a coal-fired power plant in the immediate vicinity of Rasa Island, both of which for now only could be prevented due to massive advocacy. Future population development of the species will strongly depend on the ability to avert projects like these.

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