BLAS TROY T. TABARANZA JR., wildlife conservationist
Crazy is how Blaz Troy R. Tabaranza Jr. describes his daily schedule as Operations Group Director of the Haribon Foundation, a membership organization dedicated to the conservation of Philippine biodiversity. "Senior staff at the Haribon Foundation usually multi-task.I represent Haribon in meeting the groups that fund our projects and other institutions while being the resident scientist.As operations head, I manage many projects while also dealing with advocacy, education, training and communications," described Blas."There are many overlaps but I have to manage that." Adding to the madness suddenly was the need for him to alter his itinerary during a traffic-laden Friday last December 2 in order to meet this reporter for last-minute extended interview at the Haribon Foundation office at the Fil-Garcia Tower along Kalayaan St. in Diliman, Quezon City. It didn't take long before Blas warmed up and started discussing the issues close to his heart-the Philippine Eagle, preserving the rain forests, the proper way of reforestation and the vast flora and fauna that is endemic to the Philippines.
Blas has been a biologist for life. After graduating from the Mindanao State University (MSU) with a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree, he pursued his Master of Science in Zoology, majoring in Wildlife Conservation.He taught wildlife biology at the University of the Philippines in Diliman from 1986 to 1988 before returning to MSU to teach biology and zoology subjects, such as Ornithology, Mammalogy, Herpetology and Conservation Biology. Blas has authored and co-authored important scientific books and articles such as the Philippine Red Data Book of Threatened Animals (1997) and the Threatened Birds of the Philippines - Red Data Book, which garnered the National Book Development-Manila Critic's Circle Award, National Academy of Science and Technology Award and the Golden Book Award for the environment, and is the first red data book for a specific country.His third book, the Key Conservation Sites in the Philippines, which is considered a "bible" by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has won the Outstanding Book Award. Blas became a member of the Haribon Foundation in 1992; he started working for the group in 1994.He was also a founding member of the Wildlife Conservation Society and became its first president in 1992.He served in that capacity until 2000. For his works, Blas has been conferred the Outstanding Butuanon Award-Lifetime Achievement Award by the Butuan Global Forum in 2005 and the Achievement Award for Science by the City Government of Iligan in 1997. Married to a plant biologist who teaches at the MSU, Blas has five children-all boys.
The eldest Blas Troy III became a physician and the second, Don Geoff, is a marine biologist.
Blas revealed that there is now a demand for field biologists after the government has adopted the "protected area system" as a main strategy in conserving our forests.Every time the government proclaims an area protected, it creates a need for biodiversity experts and foresters. There are very few wildlife conservation biologists like Blas in the country.Adding to the woes is the fact that the University of the Philippines in Los Banos (UPLB)-the only school in the country that once offered a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Conservation-has yet to reactivate the program. "But what we need are foresters with a new mindset!"Tabaranza rued. According to Blas, the old-school foresters are trained to have strong bias in favor of logging."Can you imagine that forestry majors in previous programs now study Dendrology [study of trees] in a selective manner.They are only taught how to identify premium species-the types that could be profitable in the logging business.All the other trees are treated as miscellaneous," he narrated, incredulously. Blas said he is also amused, thought somewhat sadly, that a forestry degree is considered irrelevant in the Philippine setting."Actually, it's the other way around.Since we are losing our forests, there is more need for forestry majors to work on reforestation programs," he stressed. And for as long as Blas is around to encourage young people to get into unpopular career goals such as forest conservation, there is still hope for an environmentally-challenged country such as the Philippines.
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