Fauna of the Panay Mangroves
Mangroves are one of the most endangered habitats in the world, second only to terrestrial rainforests. They are used by a multitude of different animals including some listed most threatened by IUCN.
Here are just some of the animals you could expect to see in a healthy mangrove forest in the Philippines.
Milkfish (Chanos chanos)
Milkfish are an extremely important commercial fish in the Philippines. So important that they are the national symbol of the Philippines.
As larvae they migrate from the open ocean to mangroves and remain safe amongst the roots until they reach juvenile age when they migrate again out to coral reefs where they stay in large groups as adults.They have no teeth and so feed on plankton, algae and small invertebrates.
Mudcrabs (Scylla olivacea)
Mudcrabs use the substrate between mangrove roots to make burrows in which they hide during the day, emerging at sunset to feed on molluscs and small crustaceans. They are not only an important food source for local people but also a thriving commercial asset.
Mangrove Red Snapper (Lutjanus argentimaculatus)
Mangrove Red Snappers are a perfect example of how many fish use the mangroves. As juveniles and young adults they use the mangrove as a nursery and shelter.
Once they reach maturity they migrate from the mangroves and can be found in small shoals around coral reefs. Mainly nocturnal, they eat other fishes and crustaceans and are a highly nutritious food source themselves and thus a very valuable commercial fish to the local community.
But it's not just commercial species which are important to coastal communities. A diverse ecosystem is equally important and needed for the delicate balance of life in a mangrove forest both for the health of the wildlife and the people of the coastal communities. Many other creatures use mangroves for either shelter or food or their associated ecosystems.
Barred Mudskipper (Periophthalmus argentilineatus)
Mudskippers are the most common type of fish to be found in mangrove forests. They are a member of the goby family, resident to the intertidal areas of brakish mudflats found in mangroves. They are amphibious air breathers and spend their time shuttling back and forth between rock pools and the open air searching for worms, crustaceans and insects to eat.
Goldringed Cat Snake (Boiga dendrophila)
One of the largest cat snakes growing between six and eight feet, it feeds on reptiles, birds and small mammals. It is classed as only slightly venomous to humans causing minor swelling after being bitten.
Other species resident to mangroves include: molluscs; the mangrove shark (Negaprion acutidens); the basilan flying squirrel (Petinomys crinitus); oysters, snails and clams which settle on aerial roots; green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Dugong (Dugong dugon) have been seen hunting along coastlines and associated coral reefs and seagrasses.
Even birds and monkeys utilise the mangrove forests including the long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and the critically endangered Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), endemic to the Philippines and once prevalent on Panay Island and now only seen on neighbouring islands in small numbers.
One creature that has already been pushed to extinction - the Panay golden crowned flying fox (Acerodon lucifer), also endemic to the Philippines. It is too late for this creature but it's not too late for the rest.