DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has called on the public to “shoot birds with camera” instead of gun.“Shoot birds with camera, not with gun,” Paje stressed, as he reminds the public on the need to conserve and protect the country’s birds, including the migratory ones, for the important role they play to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

This, even as he said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has joined forces with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) to help save and protect all native bird populations.

Under the agreement they have entered, the WBCP will support and complement the DENR’s conservation efforts by lending the expertise and skills of its members on bird photography.

“This is a unique approach to conservation – aiming and shooting at birds with cameras instead of guns,” DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said.

The environment chief noted that the WBCP is widely recognized as a leader in bird conservation in the country.

“WBCP’s transformation from an outdoor leisure-hobby group into a serious conservation-oriented organization bodes well for the implementation of successful conservation programs, not only for birds but also for important conservation sites,” Paje said.

He said the signing of the agreement fits perfectly with the DENR’s wildlife protection initiatives, especially as the country enters its 33rd year on November 16 fulfilling its commitment to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The agreement, titled “DENR-BMB and WBCP Partnership Program for the Protection and Conservation of Philippine Wild Birds and Their Habitats,” was signed by WBCP president Gina Mapua and Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) on November 10.

The DENR and WBCP have agreed to jointly undertake a number of activities meant to “contribute in the replenishment and/or reestablishment of the wild population of native threatened avian species through the rehabilitation and release (of rescued birds into the wild) projects.”

One of the activities cited in the agreement is the nationwide mobilization of all DENR field offices in the annual celebration of the WBCP-organized “Philippine Bird Festivals.” Lim said the Philippines has become an important destination for birdwatchers in Asia, having more than 657 bird species, around 200 of them are found only in the country.

She said the WBCP can contribute significantly to direct tourism. “WBCP’s advocacy is instructive to importance of birds beyond their aesthetic value.  Besides being reliable indicators of environmental conditions, birds also contribute greatly to the economy. Protecting birds and their habitats is not only a good conservation policy. It is also good business for the local communities with ecotourism initiatives.”

In the agreement, the WBCP vowed to assist the BMB in establishing bird population and identification of appropriate sites for release into the wild of rehabilitated birds.

The BMB, on the other hand, has agreed to support the operation of a WBCP-run rehabilitation facility for rescued wild birds.

The WBCP and the BMB have also agreed to share each other’s monitoring reports, including cases of poaching and illegal trading of birds.

“In addition to submitting important new sightings records, WBCP can also provide us extremely valuable information on the birds’ behavior and habitat association, which are important aid to conservation planning,”  Lim pointed out.

WBCP was formed in 2003 with a small group of diverse birdwatchers, but found itself with a growing membership that ballooned to 117 in 2004. WBCP currently has 238 members.