2 – 4 May 2009

Finally, we have good Internet connection! We’re back in Manila, and can backtrack and report on the last three weeks of our Palawan adventure. We’ll start with rare dolphins . . .

We could not imagine going to Malampaya Sound for just a few days, thinking we would need a couple of weeks stay there to have close and meaningful interactions with Irrawaddy dolphinsOrcaella brevirostris—2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Status: Vulnerable. Population trend: decreasing.

WWF Philippines photo ID team - Eloys in front, Mavic with camera and Benjie getting the coordinates

WWF Philippines photo ID team – Ely in front, Mavic with binoculars, and Benjie getting the GPS coordinates

But Taytay WWF Philippines project manager Mavic Matillano convinced us otherwise. She was going to start her photo identification project on the dolphins, and the last time she did this was in 2005, when she identified 44 individual dolphins. How could we say no to this?

Mavic's photo ID of an Irrawaddy dolphin

Mavic’s photo ID of the dorsal fin of an Irrawaddy dolphin

We left our hotel in Taytay town on a tricycle at 6 am and were on the boat to the river entering the sound by 6:20. We saw our first Irrawaddy dolphins by 6:37! Although we saw lots of dorsal fins and tails, they were nonetheless Irrawaddy dolphins, known to be extremely elusive.

They are there! Elusive Irrawaddy dolphins!

They are there! Elusive Irrawaddy dolphins!

A tale of a dolphin's tail.

A tale of a dolphin’s tail

We had about four sightings of two groups from when we arrived until 9 am. It was awesome.

And they breach! If you're lucky, they can spit on you too!

And they breach! If you’re lucky, they can spit on you, too!

On our last day, we saw more dolphin action, with a pod even breaching!

Huge amounts of baklad or fish coral for shrimps and fish

Lots of baklad or corrals for shrimps and fish

In the early 1990s, Malampaya Sound was known as the “fish bowl” of the Philippines with its rich marine resources. Sadly, this is no longer true, what with increased population and human migration. Rich resources began to dwindle as people began to compete for fish catch, eventually employing different types of fishing gears, ranging from two to four kinds at a time, as per the study of Gonzales and Matillano, 2007.

The dolphins play an important role in the sound. They are bottom feeders, eating crustacean and fish. They are the sound’s gardeners, tilling the soil and stirring up nutrients that feed the fish life.

Ely's son holding a WWF banner in Malampaya Sound.

Ely’s son Teng holding a WWF banner in Malampaya Sound.

Ely, former WWF field assistant now park ranger of Malampaya Sound Protected Area Office with his son.

Ely Buitizon, former WWF field assistant and now Park Ranger of Malampaya Sound Protected Area Office, with his son Teng

Waddy the mascot clowning around in Taytay Fiesta with WWF Flag held by Benjie & Stella

Lester Lubrico as Waddy, the Irrawaddy dolphin mascot clowning around in the Taytay Fiesta street parade – WWF flag held by Stella and Benjie Galindez

The WWF/Malampaya Irrawaddy Dolphin Photographic ID team in Taytay, Palawan

The WWF/Malampaya Irrawaddy Dolphin Photographic ID team in Taytay, Palawan