“Conservation is a lifestyle,” said Jazz Torres Ong, founder of Wildlife Matters. She believes that anyone can be a conservationist, as long as they want to help the environment. “Every field na pwede namin pasukan, pinapasukan namin.”
THE REASON BEHIND THE INITIATIVE
Jazz wanted to be a conservationist but sadly did not graduate with a degree in Biology. Instead, she studied Animal Behavior. After graduating, she joined multiple environmental organizations.
“[The groups] didn’t give me a chance to be a conservationist because I didn’t have the specific degrees, and also because I’m a woman. So I started Wildlife Matters because I wanted to give everyone a chance to do their own part in conservation.”
Speaking in front of the attendees of their Snake Management course. The course includes Snake- proofing the home and giving first aid.
WHAT THEY DO
When it comes to rescuing animals, Wildlife Matters always work with the government. Jazz explains that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not just allow anyone to conduct wildlife rescues. “[T]hey’re trying to lessen the chances ng [poachers].”
They have multiple members located from all over the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. “We are a network of rescuers who also work with the government . . . [and] we have people there who will come to the rescue kapag malayo, so it’s not always me [who does the rescuing,]” Jazz said.
Aside from rescuing and relocating, the organization has a variety of projects ranging from video production to education. “[W]e equip people to become conservationists in their own fields.”
They conduct talks and seminars on how to handle different kinds of animals. For example, their Snake management course is the only one in the Philippines that gives certification.
With a Palawan Mangrove Snake in Puerto Princesa.
It all started as a show. Jazz would upload videos of her rescues on their Facebook and YouTube page, Wildlife Matters. The channel has over 2,000 subscribers. She would post educational content on handling Snakes, Reptiles, and her wildlife rescues.
Jazz still occasionally uploads videos on the YouTube page.
With the Katala Foundation in Palawan. The foundation protects threatened endemic wildlife, including the Philippine Cockatoo and Palawan Forest Turtle.
Here, Jazz is removing stuck shed on the Snake’s head.
However, it’s not all rainbows and roses for Wildlife Matters. Most of their team members are volunteers; thus, finances are always an issue. From transportation to medicine and food, money is tight.
Jazz laments the lack of enforcement from the government. “Minsan ang hirap talaga mag-rescue when you don’t have the [power], kasi kami, we’re not government. So we don’t have the power to confiscate, or to punish people na nag-abuse ng mga hayop.”
Another hurdle they face is the prejudice against certain kinds of species. “Education and cooperation from people is also another challenge . . . hindi naman pwede yung every time they see a Snake, ipatatanggal nila. Eh, nakatira naman pala sila sa wild area, ‘di ba? Sometimes, yung mga calls na ganon, we just tell them, ‘You know what? You just have to accept that you live in a place where may Snakes talaga.’”
Demonstrating how to capture a Snake.
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Despite the challenges they face, Jazz and Wildlife Matters march on. They will continue to cooperate with the government in animal rescues and spread the conservation lifestyle.
“It’s really our goal to get people from all over the world, even [from] abroad to appreciate our animals, because Philippine wildlife is so biodiverse and unique,” Jazz said.
“Our motto is, ‘Every piece of wildlife matters,’ because we really want to show people that we’re highlighting the misunderstood, because these animals are often the ones forgotten and not being given conservation. We want to show that these animals still matter, kaya Wildlife Matters.”
People can reach out to Wildlife Matters through their Facebook page and on Instagram @wildlife_matters.
Wildlife Matters is the only organization in the Philippines offering certification in Snake management.