Part 1 - The Tropical Rainforest’s Last Stand
Dr Abe V Rotor
The Tropical Rainforest could be the biblical Lost Paradise immortalized in the masterpieces of John Milton.
It was after dawn and smoke from nearby homesteads rose with the mountain mist in Carmen, between Davao City and Tagum, when I spotted a company of loggers carrying a wooden cage looking very much like an oversized onion crate. To my curiosity I looked into the cage and found a pair of flying lemurs locally called kaguiang in Bisaya or ninmal in Samal Moro, clinging upside down and cringing from the first light of morning.
Cynocephalus volans Linneaus, as the animal is scientifically called, is one of the rare mammals that can fly, an adaptation they share with the versatile bats. Unlike bats however, the flying lemur can only glide from tree to tree, a pair of thin expandable flap of skin and fur connecting the whole length of its front and hind legs serves as parachute and glider combined.
It was a pathetic sight. The pair was apparently captured when their natural habitat - tall trees that made the original forest were cut down for lumber, and the area subsequently converted into farmland in a most destructive system called swiden or kaingin farming.
Loss of Natural Habitat Results in Loss of Species
Scientists warn us that the loss of natural habitats will result in the disappearance of organisms. This is true to the flying lemurs – and this is true to thousands of different inhabitants in the tropical rainforest, the richest biome on earth.
It is estimated that more than half the species of plants, animals and protists live in the tropical rainforests. According to a Time report, there are as many as 425 kinds of living plants that are naturally occupying a hectare of tropical rainforest in the Amazon. Similarly our own rainforest is as rich because the Philippine lies on the same tropical rainforest belt together with Indonesia and Malaysia in Southeast Asia. There are 3,500 species of indigenous trees in our rainforest.
Imagine a single tree as natural abode of ferns, orchids, insects, fungi, lichens, transient organisms - birds, monkeys, frogs, reptiles, insects and a multitude more that escape detection by our senses. The tropical rainforest must be God’s chosen natural bank of biodiversity. The “Lost Paradise” that the Genesis describes and literary giant John Milton classically wrote – Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained – is undoubtedly one that resembles a tropical rainforest.