For those who have not experienced an African safari, a Philippine version is the Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary in Calauit Island in Busuanga, northern Palawan, Philippines.
The island, located on the northeast coast of Palawan, is a 3,700-hectare game preserve and wildlife sanctuary. About 40% of the island is plain, 20% moderately undulating and 40% mountainous. Elevation of mountain ranges is from 500 to 900 feet. A major part of the island is less than 200 feet above sea level. To get to the island, adventurous travellers can fly from Manila to Busuanga by chartered plane.
The Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary dates back to 1976, when fresh from a Third World Conference former President Ferdinand Marcos answered a call to save endangered African animals. By virtue of a presidential decree issued on August 31, 1976, Calauit Island was declared a forest preserve and wildlife sanctuary managed by the private, non-profit Conservation and Resource Management Foundation.
In 1977, eight species of African animals from Kenya were brought to Calauit via the ship MV Salvador. This veritable Noah’s Ark held giraffes, zebras, impalas, waterbucks, gazelles, eland, topi and bushbacks. From the original stock of giraffes, zebras, bushbucks, elands, topis, waterbucks, impalas and gazelles roaming free without natural predators, the animal population has quadrupled over a 10-year period to almost 500 heads.
To make room for the wildlife, some 250 families of islanders were relocated and compensated with land titles on another island, a move highly criticised by opponents of Marcos. Critics also accused the Marcos government of transforming the island into a private safari, frequented by his coterie of friends and selected foreign guests.
Today, the Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary, however anachronistic its roots maybe in a tropical setting, attracts its regular share of tourists and visitors.
Long live Philippine wildlife!