Unlike most of the Philippines, Palawan is bio-geographically part of the Sundaland with a fauna and flora that is closely related to that of Borneo.
Among the many endemic species found in this province are the Palawan peacock pheasant, Philippine mousedeer, Philippine pangolin, Palawan bearded pig, and Palawan birdwing.
Over 600 species of butterflies flutter around the mountains and fields of Palawan.
About 85% of Palawan’s endemic animals are found in and around Cleopatra’s Needle. The lowland forests included in the proposed reserve are home to the last viable populations of several critically endangered species.
Birds of Palawan
Of the 279 bird species found in Palawan 27 are endemic to the Philippines. Notable species are the Palawan hornbill, Palawan peacock pheasant, Palawan scops owl, and the Palawan flycatcher.
The Palawan hornbill which is also known as Talusi in the Filipino language is a forest-dwelling bird that is about 80cm in length. Its plumage is predominantly black, has a white tail, dark green gloss on its upper parts, and a large creamy white beak with a casque that is typical to the members of the hornbill family.
The Palawan hornbill is endemic to Palawan and is one of the nine(9) species of hornbill that can be found in the Philippines. Most visiting birdwatchers travel to St. Paul’s National Park in Palawan to see the Palawan hornbill but the species has now become rare.
It serves as a bio-indicator due to its high sensitivity to environmental changes. At present, it is already classified as “vulnerable” and its numbers have already reduced by at least 20% in the last 10 years due to various factors such as habitat destruction, being hunted down for food, and live bird trade.
It may be usually seen in pairs or small family groups and it has a communal roosting site. It is mostly observed in fruiting trees at the forest edge but it also feeds on insects and small reptiles.
Palawan Peacock Pheasant
Palawan peacock pheasant is a medium-sized bird that belongs to the family Phasianidae and reaches up to 50 centimeters long. It’s featured prominently in the culture of the indigenous people of Palawan.
The adult males are the most beautiful to look at. It has an erectile crest and is highly iridescent electric blue-violet, metallic green-turquoise dorsal plumage. Its breast and ventral regions are black. Its metrics are wide, flat, and rigid; their terminal edges are squared.
Each tail plume and upper-tail covert is marked with highly iridescent, light reflective, ocelli. The tail is erected and expanded laterally together with the bodies of the birds. The male also raises one wing and lower the other, laterally compressing the body during pair-bonding, courtship displays as well and may also be an antipredator adaptation.
The female peacock is slightly smaller than the male. Its contour plumage is cloudy silt in coloration. The mantle and the breast are dark sepias in color. Their retrices are essentially similar to those of the male, exhibiting marked adumbrations and stunning ocelli.
Their plumage is eathen throughout and is difficult to distinguish between the substrate and branches. While it has similar proportions of the tail to the male, its markings are not as visually interesting. Like the male, the female has a short crest and is whitish on the throat, cheeks, and eyebrows.
The chicks are vivid ginger and cinnamon-hued with prominent yellow markings. Juveniles of both sexes in the first year closely resemble their mothers.
Subadult males start to closely resemble their fathers on their second year but their mantles and wing coverts are marked with adumbrations analogous to the ocelli in the contour plumage of other peacock pheasant species.
Like other peacock pheasants, Palawan males and some females exhibit multiple spurs on their metatarsus which they use in anti-predator defense, foraging in leaf litter and contests with other males.
The male Palawan peacock pheasants excavate slight depressions in which it orients its body during postural display behaviors. The bird vibrates loudly through stridulation of retrace quills. This communicative signal is both audible and as a form of seismic communication. The Palawan peacock pheasants are strong fliers that could fly swift, direct, and sustained.
Palawan Scops Owl
The Palawan Scops Owl is a species of owl that is endemic to Palawan. There have been indicators that this species has a small population and occupies a small range which is both in decline owing to forest loss.
They are rare owls that occur naturally in Southwestern Philippines; specifically in the province of Palawan. And adjacent islands of Alabangin and Balabac, with an unconfirmed report from Calauit.
Populations of this species have been recorded in Kinalaykayan and Dicabaitot, Saint Paul’s Subterranean River National Park, Cleopatra’s Needle, Buenavista, Iwahig Penal Colony, vicinity of Puerto Princesa, Quezon, Singnapan at Kabasakan, Pinikpikan and Tining-luan, Tagusao, Mt. Matalingahan, and Tigwayan in Bataraza, all in the province of Palawan.
They are believed to be sedentary and are mostly found in lowland forests but are also believed to be able to adapt to human-modified habitats as long as trees are present. They are relatively small in size – measuring about 19cm in length.
Their upper plumage is dark reddish brown with black wave patterns. The facial disk is light rufous and they have a pale collar on the back of the neck; dark below with buff spots. Their bill is hill – colored and the feet are greyish-yellow while their eyes’ irises are orange-brown.
The Palawan flycatcher belongs to a species of birds from the Muscicapidae family. And is endemic to Palawan. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests which are now threatened by habitat loss.
The Palawan flycatcher is 12 centimeters in length, and short-tailed. It has rufescent-brown head and upperparts, becoming bright chestnuts on its upper tail coverts and tail.
It has greyish lores, its eyes appear large and dark and it has place orange throat that grades into brighter orange as it goes down to its breast while its lower breast and its belly is white in color.
Terrestrial Mammals of Palawan
There are nearly 60 terrestrial mammal species recorded in Palawan, 33% of which is endemic to the Philippines. Some of these species are the Palawan bearcat, Palawan leopard cat, and Palawan flying squirrel.
The Palawan bearcat, also known as Palawan Binturong is a subspecies of the binturong which is endemic to Palawan.
The Palawan bearcat can grow to as much as 1.4 meters with its distinguishing characteristic of having ears that are lined with white fur and long white whiskers that can be as long as the length of its head. They are generally docile when handled although they have sharp claws and teeth that can easily rip through flesh.
The Palawan bearcat can suspend itself by curling its strong prehensile tail around branches. It has a vertically oriented pupil which indicates that it is nocturnal. It has coarse, thick black-brown fur.
The Palawan bearcat inhabits thick vegetation in the lowland forests of Palawan to be able to get food; they are omnivorous. They feed on both plants and animals such as rodents and birds. It camouflages itself in dense vegetation in the forest canopy to escape predators.
Palawan Leopard Cat
The Palawan leopard cat is a small wild cat that is native to South and East Asia but is now threatened by habitat loss. Leopard cat subspecies differ widely in fur color, tail length, skull shape and in size of carnassials.
A leopard cat is about the size of a domestic cat but are more slender and has longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes. Its small head is marked with two prominent dark stripes and a short and narrow white muzzle.
There are also two dark stripes running from the eyes to the ears and smaller white streaks running from the eyes to the nose. The backs of its moderately long and rounded ears are black with central white spots.
Its body and limbs are marked with black spots that vary in shape and size. Along with its back are two to four rows of elongated spots. The tail of the leopard cat is about half the size of its head-body length and is spotted with few indistinct rings near the black tip.
The background color of its spotted fur is tawny. It has a white chest and belly. The fur color is yellowish brown in southern populations while the northern ones have pale silver-grey colored fur.
Leopard cats in the Sundaic region are darker and have smaller spots and shorter tails than leopard cats in mainland Asia.
Palawan Flying Squirrel
Hylopetes nigripes which is commonly known as the Palawan flying squirrel or Bising is a species of rodents in the Sciuridae family.
It is endemic to Palawan and naturally lives in subtropical or tropical dry forests.
They are found in various areas in the southern regions of Palawan due to the numerous coconut trees where they usually jump around to gather food.
Reptiles of Palawan
The forests of Palawan serves as a haven for 24 endemic reptile species including the 2 meter long Palawan monitor lizard.
Palawan Monitor Lizard
The Palawan monitor lizard is a monitor lizard that is endemic to Palawan. It has differences to be considered a distinct species from the closely related water monitor, marble water monitor, and Varanus rasmusseni who belongs to the subgenus Soterosaurus where the Palawan monitor lizard belongs to as well.
This monitor lizard which is locally known as bayawak is the largest carnivorous monitor lizard in the country that reaches lengths of up to two meters. It is a highly opportunistic scavenger and predator that feeds on mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, crabs, insects and slugs and devours even dead animals or its own kind.
It is also known as a predator of sea turtle eggs.
The Palawan monitor lizard can climb trees and swim long distances, being able to hold its breath for up to half an hour.
Crocodiles are dangerous animals that live in rivers where the ocean water meets freshwater. In Palawan, there have been various reports of crocodile attacks in the municipalities, when these attacks are responded, the crocodiles that are caught are immediately brought to the Crocodile Farm in Puerto Princesa.
These crocodiles help maintain the balance of Philippine ecosystems such as wetlands. With the numerous cases of crocodiles being caught in the wild, it was decided to have crocodile farming in the province.
The crocodile farming is the agricultural industry of raising and harvesting crocodiles in the Philippines. Crocodile farmers in Palawan raise two species of Philippine crocodiles namely; the Philippine saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and the Philippine freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis).
Crocodile farming in the Philippines is also geared towards the rescue and conservation of both species especially that of the endangered Crocodylus mindorensis.
Giant gecko which is commonly known as “Tokay Gecko” is a nocturnal arboreal gecko found in northeast India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia, Philippines to Indonesia, and western New Guinea. Its native habitat is rainforest trees and cliffs and is frequently adapts to rural habitations – roaming walls and ceilings at night in search of insect prey.
The tokay gecko is the second largest known species of geckos, attaining lengths of about 30-50 centimeters.
They are distinctive in appearance with a bluish or grayish body, sporting spots ranging from light yellow to bright red. The males are more brightly colored than females. They have large brown to greenish brown or orange or yellow eyes with vertical slit pupils.
Males are very territorial and will definitely attack other male Tokays as well as other gecko species or anything else that is in their territory. They are solitary and only meet during the mating season.
Tokay Geckos feed on insects and other types of vertebrates. Their strong bites are needed to crack the shell of hard cockroaches that live in the rainforests.
They are extremely strong climbers and their foot pads can support their entire weight on a vertical surface for a long amount of time without any effort. Compared to other gecko species, the tokay gecko has a robust build, with a semi-prehensile tail, a large head and muscular jaws which can inflict a painful bite making them ill-suited for inexperienced keepers.
Butterflies of Palawan
Palawan is home to various kinds of butterflies but one species of butterfly have garnered fame due to its rarity and uniqueness.
The forests of Cleopatra’s Needle are home to one of the largest butterflies in the world which is the Palawan birdwing – having a 20 centimeters wingspan.
The Palawan birdwing or the Tringle birdwing as known by many is endemic to Palawan. It is one of only two species in its genus. The male Palawan birdwing has narrower green bands on the hindwings.
This species of butterfly may be observes flying around in Palawan at any time of the year. This species, the majestic birdwing Trogonoptera trojana alone is worth going to see in Palawan!