From April 11th to 19th, DENR Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) and Mt. Iglit-Baco Natural Park Management Office (MIBNP PAMO), with the support of the D’ABOVILLE Foundation and Demo Farm Inc, conducted the Double Observer Point Count of Tamaraw. This operation is a major achievement to continue the possible transition to new census methodologies, which do not require burning the grasslands in areas of the Park where the species can be seen. For the last 22 years, the counting area of MIBNP has been burned annually during the dry season. This activity increases the visibility to detect the animals by reducing the height and density of the vegetation, allowing the traditional tamaraw census, a multi-vantage point count methodology, and fixing the population of tamaraw in a determined place, thanks to the growth of new grass shoot, which artificially and temporarily increase the carrying capacity of the area. This process has been detrimental to the ecosystem in general, probably affecting most of the biota of the area. Both the Tamaraw Conservation Management Action Plan (TCMAP) and the Park Area Management Plan for MIBNP, which are now the roadmaps guiding conservation and management of the species and the Protected Area, are stressing this issue; therefore, a plan for stopping burning and restoring natural habitat is in process. The D’ABOVILLE Foundation has been collaborating with DENR MIMAROPA to make this possible, designing, testing, implementing and analysing new census methodologies that will enable the local authorities to continue monitoring the tamaraw population in the core zone of the monitoring without the need for burning, allowing the restoration plan to happen in parallel. The Double Observer Point Count is one part of this process. It shall provide a stronger estimation of the population in 2022, reducing some important biases of the annual count, such as double-counting and calculating a detection rate, key to refining the population estimate. This methodology consists of two observers per team who record independently all the animals they can see from the same vantage point at the same time. Thereafter the animals reported by each observer are compared, extracting the proportion seen in common and the part that is not.
Five teams of two observers were assigned three vantage points each. The protocol included eight sessions of 15 minutes. A total of 15 vantage points were covered. The teams experienced a low pressure with repeated rainfall and fog during the operation, a very unusual weather event at this time of the year, affecting visibility of animals. In addition, parallel activities beyond our control created disturbance in the past few weeks. The data are currently being encoded and will undergo thorough analysis through statistical models built thanks to the pilot operation last year.
Thanks to the two offices involved for facilitating the process, and especially to the rangers for their great job.