Calauit Island, Philippines, Jun 18 (EFE).- The animal sanctuary on the Philippine’s Calauit Island has returned in the spotlight 45 years on from its opening after the Marcoses returned to power with the victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the country’s presidential elections.
The safari park, one of the most notorious symbols of the extravagance of the Marcos family, was created in 1977 by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos – in power from 1965 to 1986 – known for their brutal dictatorship in the Philippines.
The idea was born from a trip to Kenya after which Imelda decided, on a whim, that it would be a nice idea to bring the same animals from the Savannah to roam freely in the Philippines.
Shortly after, 15 giraffes, 15 zebras, 12 gazelles and almost 20 impalas were shipped from the east coast of Africa to Calauit Island.
Since the Marcoses were overthrown in 1986, the controversial zoo stopped receiving funding and has been left to slowly deteriorate.
But today, with the upcoming swearing in of Bongbong Marcos, Ferdinand’s son, the spotlight has returned on the animal sanctuary 45 years later.
“Nobody from the future government has contacted us, maybe they will support the park in some way,” the director of the reserve, Froilán Sariego, tells Efe, adding that more resources are needed to protect the 3,760 hectares of the reserve.
A DECLINING RESERVE
The zoo, initially a private sanctuary where the Marcos took their guests to impress them with an exclusive safari, has been losing the African species due to their inability to adapt to the ecosystem.
The animals are also slowly disappearing due to poaching and hunting by local inhabitants of Calauit who, when they returned to the island after being expelled from their lands by the Marcoses, hunted species and burnt plots of land on the reserve.
When the sanctuary was first created there were 100 workers, Sariego says. Today, there are barely 20 employees, he adds.
“We don’t even have a veterinarian,” Hilario Daron, who has been working at the park since 1979, says.
The employees are very cautious in predicting what the future of the park will be under the Marcos Jr. administration even though Sariego is optimistic that the new president will support the project.
One of the most controversial aspects of the park’s creation was the displacement of dozens of families belonging to an ethnic minority, who were relocated to the island of Culion, some 90 kilometers southeast of Calauit.
In a country where the heir to the Marcos family claimed over 50% of votes in presidential elections on May 9, Calauit was the last bastion to the dynasty, where only 5% of votes went to Bongbong.