Five new species of orchid discovered in guerrilla zones in Mindanao

  • Five new species of orchids where discovered in the mountains of Bukidnon
  • The orchids were found in an area where many Communist guerrillas operate
  • Conservationists say the presence of the rebels help deter entry of illegal poachers

Scientists have discovered five new species of wild orchids in the remote mountains of Mindanao where Communist guerrillas have staged their decades-long insurgency against the Philippine government.

According to conservationists, it is the presence of these guerrillas that have helped in protecting these rare species, as they block the entry of poachers in the area. They also admit, however, that this also makes cataloging these plant species, difficult.

“The insurgency problem helps prevent poachers or would-be orchid-hunters from entering the forests. These areas are very isolated. The terrain is treacherous, accessible only by foot and occasionally, a motorcycle or horse,” explained plant and wildlife conservationist Miguel David de Leon to AFP, in a story earlier published by GMA News.

The orchids were found mostly in the mountain ranges of Bukidnon, where the guerrilla insurgents live among the poor in the farming and mountain communities of the province.

Among the recent discoveries include a yellow orchid with brown spots, which they named Epicrianthes aquinoi in honor of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III whose family has long used the color yellow in their political career.

Two species of Dendrobium called the pure white variety and the red-lipped white variety, a dark red Epicrianthes species, and a green slipper orchid with red stripes, were also among the discoveries made by de Leon and his team.

Australian taxonomist Jim Cootes, who joined Filipinos de Leon and research associate Mark Arcebal Naive in their journey through the mountains of Mindanao, said that the recent discoveries show the rich biodiversity of the Philippines.

“We need to preserve what is left because the variation within the different species is so high that it is almost priceless. The mountains throughout the archipelago need to be preserved,” he said.

Deforestation, as well as the illegal wildlife trade, continues to be the major threat to the forests of the Philippines where many of these rare species thrive.