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Kalaw: The royalty of the forest

By Ramon Jorge Sarabosing

Without them, the forest is less vibrant, fascinating, healthy. The hornbills, locally known as the
Kalaw are the most spectacular winged residents of the beautiful but mining invaded island of Dinagat province.

There is no reason why they (Kalaw) vanish at all. To date, there are only 50 sighted in one small area, the Loreto Watershed and this could be alarming.

“There used to be a lot of them but since mining came and leveled off the forest you hardly see them,” informs a local woman, who lives at the edge of the forest and near the sea.

A Southern Hornbill (Buceros mindanensis) near Loreto Watershed in Dinagat Islands.

“They are gentle, royal-like creatures and vulnerable to disappearing fast but many locals now have learned to value them,” says Brian Lawas of Green Mindanao, a tried and tested environmental non-government organization.

In other parts of Caraga Region, particularly Surigao del Sur, other Hornbill specie can be found.

A juvenile Southern hornbill.

One time, this writer visited Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City and encounter one hovering from one tree to the other.

An old datu (tribal chieftain) with me said we should consider it a privilege to see it because rarely do they
(Hornbills) show themselves to people.

“They bring good luck,” he said.

The datu said the kalaw are curios to human behaviors much as we do them and they are observant even when they seem distant and uncaring. But they are friendly and unafraid of humans.

The Philippine Red-Vented Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia).

Beautiful and lovable as they are, it is unlawful to take them as pets–being endangered even in other parts of the world. Their number one “enemy” unfortunately, is human greed, no thanks to forest destruction.

Hail to the Kalaw! May their tribe forever flourish and may humanity care and respect them!

Photos Jong Magana

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