The extensive variety of wildlife on these isolated tropical islands is still growing, as new species are discovered each year.
In the last 10 years, scientists have found 16 new mammal species in the Philippines, a rate of discovery among the highest in the world. In many of these cases, the species were not only unique to the islands but also entirely new to science. The Philippines has more than 20,000 plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth.
This rare combination heightens the concern for each loss. For example, Mindoro Island is the sole habitat for the tamaraw, a dwarf water buffalo, the country's largest and most impressive mammal. Just a few hundred tamaraw remain in the wild today — a drastic dropoff from the 10,000 estimated a century ago.
The same thing is happening to the Philippine eagle, a national symbol. Standing more than three feet tall with a headdress of spiky feathers, the eagle lives only on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, and Leyte. Once abundant, less than 250 adult Philippine eagles — one of nature's largest and rarest — remain. As forests disappear, other bird species are also experiencing steep declines.
In its rivers and oceans, the Philippines supports a wide range of marine and freshwater species. Nearly 100 amphibian species have been recorded in the country, and that number seems to climb with new scientific explorations. The nation's reptiles are interesting, and include Southeast Asia's flying lizards, which use flaps of skin on their bodies to glide from trees to the ground. An estimated 100 Philippine crocodiles — the world's most threatened — survive in the wild, but a small population recently discovered in the Sierra Madre mountain and Agusan marsh range brings new hope for its conservation.