- Mt. Apo, located in Mindanao, not far from Davao City, is one of the 14 bio-geographic zones of the Philippines. Mt. Apo National Park, Mindanao- is a dormant volcano and the
Philippines highest mountain at 2954 meters. As a known habitat of the
national bird, Philippine Eagle, its forested slopes were protected for
the conservation of this endangered bird.
- Mt. Apo is considered the center of endemism in Mindanao. It has one of the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area. It has three (3) distinct forest formations from lowland tropical rain forest to mid-mountain forests and finally to high mountain forests.
- The Mt. Apo natural park includes 629 species under 148 families of vascular and non vascular plants. Five hundred seventy two species belong to 124 families of ferns and angiosperms, while 57 species belong to 24 families of bryophytes or mosses.
Among the vascular plants in the area, Moraceae, represented by the genus Ficus, has the highest number of known species. This particular group of plants is very important to the economy of the forest for they provide food to many species of birds and mammals. Most fruit eating birds feed on Ficus fruits, particularly on the species bearing small reddish fruits which are quite abundant during summer.
Ficus and other small trees such as Leucosyke, Nauclea, Macaranga, Homolanthus, and Dillenia thrive in secondary forests at elevation of 300 to 500 meters above sea level such as in the Baratacab and Sibulan areas. Dipterocarp species like Dipterocarpus, Shorea and Pentacme dominate the vegetation at elevations of 650 to1000 meters such as in Tibulo and Todaya. However, the dipterocarps assume shorter heights and become co-dominant with other smaller trees and shrubs such as Lithocarpus, Laportea and Areca at higher elevations of 1400 to 1600 meters such as in Mainit-Kulan.
At 1800 to 2000 meters, particularly at Meran Baclayan, Agathis, Lithocarpus, Cinnamomum and gymnosperms are the dominant species. At the crater lake in Cirribal, Rhododendron, Vaccinium, Gleichenia and Polypodiaceae species were found to be most abundant along with bryophytes. Ferns and orchids are common as herbaceous component and as epiphytes.
Among the high value species of trees in the area are the almaciga or Agathis philippinensis and the dipterocarp species Shorea polita and Vatica mangachapoi. These tree species are threatened due to over logging. The world famous Vanda sanderiana or waling-waling and the rattan species Plectocomia elmiri used to abound in the primary forests of Mt. Apo. However, these species can no longer be found in their natural habitats because of over collection.
Six endemic plant species are restricted to Mt. Apo. These were identified under the families (1) Lauraceae ( Alseodaphne philippinensis ), (2) Urticaceae ( Cypholophus microphyllus ) at an altitude of 1,800 meters (3) Fagaceae ( Lithocarpus submonticulus ) at 1,700 meters, (4) Nepenthaceae ( Nepenthes copelandii ) in thickets at 2400 meters and (5) Piperaceae ( Piperomia elmeri and P. apoanum ) at 800 to 1,200 meters.
A total of 227 vertebrates species belonging to 69 families of amphibians, reptiles birds and mammals have been recorded in Mt. Apo. Likewise, 118 species of butterflies belonging to 69 families are recorded in the area.
Birds at Mt Apo
- Of the birds reported, most species are widely distributed and can be found throughout the Philippines such as the blue shortwing, Brachypteryx montana. The Philippine eagle, Pithecophaga jefferyi, the Philippine trogon, Harpactes ardens, and the yellow-bellied whistler, Pachycephala philippinensis, are species recorded in Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Eastern Mindanao. The fly-catchers, Eumyias panayensis, and Ficedula westermanni are reported in Luzon, Mindoro, Negros, Panay and Mindanao. F. westermanni can also be found in Palawan. The strong-billed shrike, Lanius validirostis, can be observed in the highlands of Mindoro, Luzon, and Mindanao, while the Philippine bullfinch, Pyrrhula leucogenys, occurs in the highlands of Luzon and Mindanao only. The presence of L. woodi, R. goodfellowi, E. payanensis, F. hyperythra, R. nigrocinnamomea and H. cinnamomeus were also noted in the primary forest area.
- The Mt. Apo myna Basilornis miranda, the Apo lorikeet Tricoglossus johnstoniae, the cinnamon bird Hypocryptadus cinnamoneus, and the bagobo babbler, Leonardina woodi, and the black and cinnamon fantail are among the Mindanao endemics in MANP. These species are believed to have evolved on Mt. Apo before spreading to surrounding peaks such as in Katanglad, Malindang, and Matutum.
- The Philippine eagle, P. jefferyi, is by far the most important bird species in Mt. Apo. This bird is not found elsewhere in the world and has become the symbol of Philippine conservation efforts. Widespread destruction of its habitat and over collection is driving this species to extinction.
Mammals at Mt Apo
- Mammalian species include shrews and gymnures, bats, rats, squirrels, ungulates, civet cats and deers. The families Pteropidae and Muridae are the most represented.
- The pteropid bats are common in Mt. Apo, particularly Cynopterus brachyotis, Haplonycteris fischeri and Rousettus amplexicaudatus.
- Of the mammals identified, only four are Mindanao endemics. These are Apomys insignis, Urogale everetti, Sundasciurus philippinensis and Podogymnura truei.
- The Philippine gymnure, P. truei, which belongs to family Erinacidae, was believed as restricted to Mt. Apo until it was collected in Mt. Kitanglad.
- The deer species, Cervus mariannus apoensis is the most threatened mammal in the area.
Important reptile species occurring in Mt. Apo include the burrowing skinks of the Genus Brachymeles and the Cuming's eared skink, Otosaurus cumingi. The latter is rare and the largest in its family. The monitor lizard, Varanus salvator, is one of the species used as food.
Important amphibian species include the Philippine woodland frog, Rana magna, the broad hearted forest frog, Leptobrachium hasselti, the horned forest frog, Megophrys monticola, the Mueller's toad, Ansonia muelleri, the Mindanao toad, Pelophryne brevipes, the montane narrow-mouthed frog, Oreophryne annulatus. R. magna is considered an endangered species throughout the country because it is widely collected for food. Moreover, rate of population increase of the species is slow for it requires unpolluted cool water for successful breeding. It also has a relatively long tadpole stage making it vulnerable to changes in the forest environment. L. hasselti is considered a true forest frog because it cannot survive in open areas. This species is considered rare because of its cryptic, or secretive behavior, similar to M. monticola.
The butterflies in the area are numerous in terms of number of species. They occur in a wide range of habitat, from cultivated lands to grasslands, from second growth to primary forest. Among the species commonly found are Eurema hecabe, Graphium sarpedon, Papilio rumnzovia, P. aquamemnon and Mycalesis tagala sermirasa. Five endemic species of butterflies are known. These are: (1) Parantica schoenigi, (2) Delias lecicki, (3) D. schoenigi, (4) D. apoensis, and (5) D. woodi. Of the five, D. woodi and D. schoenigi have wider vertical distribution range. They were observed between approximately 800 and 2400 m.a.s.l. All species are usually found close to bodies of water.