The Mabuwaya Foundation promotes effective conservation of endemic and threatened species in the Philippines, involving local communities and building their capacity to protect their local species and environments.
The Philippine crocodile is one of two of the most threatened crocodilians in the world. This small freshwater crocodile has in the past been affected by overexploitation. While local people respect the species, non-residents are more wary and are willing to kill the crocodiles should the opportunity arise. It is also adversely impacted by land conversion, pollution and overfishing, which of course also have negative consequences for local people, affecting the quality of their drinking water.
The Mabuwaya Foundation was originally established purely to protect the Critically Endangered Philippine crocodile but has since developed into an organisation protecting biodiversity and habitats more broadly. Their work includes setting up fish and crocodile sanctuaries in partnership with local communities, who manage and monitor these sanctuaries and assist in restoring wetlands. Mabuwaya supports this work through ongoing capacity building and education. It also runs a ‘head starting’ programme for the Philippines crocodile, where eggs are hatched in captivity and young crocodiles are released at around one year of age into local sanctuaries. This increases the survival rate of hatchlings from an estimated 5% in the wild to around 80% for those released at one year. The combination of the head starting programme and community-run sanctuaries has resulted in an increase in Philippine crocodile numbers from 12 known individuals in 2001 to nearly 100 in the wild in 2017.
Mabuwaya is now the largest environmental community-based organisation working in North-eastern Luzon. In 2014, The Mabuwaya Foundation’s director, Tess Balbas, won a Whitley Award in recognition of her great work.
Synchronicity Earth has supported Mabuwaya since 2014 for its work to protect the Philippine crocodile.