Ursula Island Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary

” A home for migratory birds”

Ursula Island Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary were declared through Administrative Order No. 14 on April 30, 1960. The islet of Ursula is approximately 20 kms. Off Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan, about one hour by boat from Rio Tuba, Bataraza. The vegetation is made up of old growth lowland forest with moderate undergrowth, consisting mostly of tree saplings and seedlings. Fishermen frequent the island and there are numerous trails to wells dug in the interior and some small nipa huts. Ursula has been promoted in the past as an ecotourism destination, but it is apparently not visited by many tourists at present. Ursula Island is notable for the large concentrations of imperial pigeons that roast there, including numbers of the threatened grey Imperial-pigeons. However, it has been reported that the numbers of pigeons roosting there have declined substantially in recent years. Mantanani Scops-owl, a restricted-range small-island specialist, has also been recorded on the island. The shoreline is a migratory and wintering ground for shorebirds and the surrounding waters are valuable feeding grounds for seabirds, particularly terns. It is clear that there has been a significant decline in the numbers of roosting pigeons using Ursula. From an estimated 150,000 to a few thousand over the last 60 years. Natural predators such as the line Slender Arboreal Snake Dendrelaphis caudolinatus may have had significant impact on populations of nesting birds. This is the only snake recorded at Ursula and it is possible that it is only a recent colonizer of the island, perhaps brought there by man. There are also reports of the introduction of rats, and these are very likely to cause further problems.

The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) which takes charge of the whole management of the island has ordered a temporary closure of the sanctuary from visitors so as to give time for the birds to recuperate and for the PAMB to adopt necessary measures in order to fully protect the whole island while various exposure activities is on going. But the PAMB is still a big problem today due to the presence of fishermen in the island. These fishermen allegedly are doing illegal fishing activities within the vicinity of the sanctuary, thereby damaging the marine ecosystem and disturbs the birds.

The PAMB members which is co-chaired by the Palawan Council for sustainable Development (PCSD) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) enjoins their efforts to halt this activity. The PCSD is optimistic that with the new undertaking of the PAMB like the strengthening of its monitoring activities, this problem will end.