Watchbird January 2022

Philippine Cockatoos and Other Parrots in Palawan by David Waugh Loro Parque Fundación Conservation

Rare is the short - term conservation project, because most situations which call for conservation measures are only tackled effectively with a long time - horizon. New obstacles constantly appear which must be surmounted with a fusion of tenacity, inge- nuity and resources to fit the task. Such is the case with the endeavor to save the ‘ Critically Endan-

rule, genetic diversity is lost from populations which at some point in time have been reduced to small numbers of individuals, and this can endure even after a population has subsequently increased in size. This is called a genetic bottleneck. Until recently, no genetic studies aimed at quantifying genetic diversi- ty in the populations protected by the PCCP had

been undertaken. However, a recent study (Que et al., 2020) by the KFI team and colleagues at the University of the Philip- pines has genetically analysed blood and feather samples obtained from the four sites in Palawan, and has added infor- mation from a previous genetic analysis of material originating from a museum specimen. They examined two genes, called ND2 and COX1, found in the DNA located in the mitochondria (mDNA), which is passed only from mother to offspring. For ND2, 101 individual Philippine Cocka- toos were analyzed, and the museum specimen result added. This analysis found eight haplotypes. A haplotype is a group of DNA variations, or polymor- phisms, within an organism that are inher-

The Philippine Cockatoo , also known as the Red - vented Cockatoo, is about the same size and shape as the Goffin ’ s cockatoo but has a distinctive red patch under the tail feathers known as the undertail coverts.

Picture by Peter Widmann / KFI; 2 Adapted from Que et al., 2020

gered ’ Philippine Cockatoo ( Cacatua haematuro- pygia ) from extinction and bring about the recovery of its wild population. The lead role is occupied by the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme (PCCP) of the Katala Foundation Inc., a Philippine NGO, supported by the Loro Parque Fundación and other donors. The project also includes the Blue - naped Parrot ( Tanygnathus lucionensis ), almost ex- clusive to the Philippines, and the Blue - headed Rac- quet - tail ( Prioniturus platenae ), 'Vulnerable' and endemic to Palawan. As the project continues its largely positive progres- sion, two additional challenges arise. The first re- lates to the genetic robustness of the Philippine Cockatoo population, and the second has to do with the impact of oil palms ( Elaeis guineensis ). As a

ited together from a single parent. For COX1, 103 individuals were successfully analyzed, revealing only three haplotypes. Integrating the analysis of ND2 and COX1 for 100 individuals resulted in 11 haplotypes, dominated by only two haplotypes refer- ring to 52 and 27 individual cockatoos respectively. The analysis shows that little genetic differentiation exists across the Philippine Cockatoo population in Palawan, and although Rasa and Pandanan Islands contain unique haplotypes, these are found in low numbers and are derived from the two most numer- ous haplotypes. It is possible that these unique hap- lotypes are products of new mutations due to the in- creasing population of the Philippine Cockatoo in both islands. However, overall a possible reduction of genetic diversity over time is indicated.

28 Volume XLVIX ● January 2022

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