Marites Gatan-Balbas of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya receives a Green Oscar
Crocodile conservationist Marites Gatan-Balbas of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya in the Philippines was given an award from the London-based Whitley Fund for Nature for her work in saving the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) from extinction. She accepted the award, called the Green Oscar, May 8 at the Royal Geographical Society in London. England's Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, is the Whitley Fund for Nature's major patron.
Gatan-Balbas is the deputy director of the Mabuwaya (Long Live Crocodile) Foundation and was recognized for her more than 15 years of work in trying to save and protect the Philippine crocodile from extinction in the wild.
“The Philippine crocodile is the rarest crocodile species on the planet. It is endemic to the Philippines and cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” Balbas told the Philippine Star. “If we can save the Philippine crocodile when people view them as very scary and something to be feared, then I believe we can save all other critically endangered species in our country from extinction,” Balbas said.
According to the foundation, there are just 100 adult Philippine crocodiles left in the island nation and can be found almost exclusively in freshwater habitats. The Philippine crocodile is smaller than the better known saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) that can be found in the southern Philippines. Gatan-Balbas' work with the Mabuwaya foundation has been instrumental in the rearing and releasing of 70 baby crocodiles in and around the country's Dicatian Lake as well as Dunoy Lake, where in 2012, Michel Lacoste, son of the founder and owner of the French fashion brand that sports the famous crocodile logo, helped to release captive bred Philippine crocodiles.