Batanes Islands

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The Batanes and Babuyan Island groups are at the northern tip of the Philippines, between Luzon and Taiwan, and extend for more than 200 km from north to south. The two island groups are included in a single IBA, but only the Batanes Islands are a WB-GEF funded CPPAP site. The main islands in the Batanes group are Itbayat (9,000 ha), Batan (7,000 ha) and Sabtang (1,600 ha). The main islands in the Babuyan group are Calayan (7,800 ha), Camiguin Norte (16,800 ha), Fuga (7,000 ha), Babuyan (9,800 ha) and Dalupiri (5,200 ha). The islands are the home of the Ivatan tribal people. They have attractive coastal scenery and are a popular destination for tourists, hikers and bikers. Broad U-shaped valleys are a feature of the eastern side of Batan and Itbayat, and wave-cut cliffs, sea caves and secluded white sandy beaches are found throughout the islands. Batanes is also famous for its distinctive culture and architecture.

Key biodiversity
The Batanes and Babuyan Islands are Secondary Areas, supporting three restricted-range species, all of which have subspecies which are endemic to these islands. They have all been reported to be common or uncommon on one or more of the islands in the past, but there is little recent information on their status. Knowledge of their distribution within the islands is also probably incomplete, and there is a need for more survey work. A total of 21 subspecies (including the three given above) are endemic to this IBA, several of which are known from just one or two of the islands. The Batanes and Babuyan Islands are an important flyway for migratory birds, mainly moving between Japan and Taiwan and the Philippine Archipelago.

Non-bird biodiversity: The newly described species of lizards, Jareck’s flying lizard Draco jackeri, Batan smooth-scaled gecko Lepidodactylus balioburius and Batan narrow-disked gecko Gekko porosus, and an undescribed species of snake, Lycodon sp., are found on Batan Island. Sixteen species of vascular plants are endemic to the Batanes Islands, and at least 47 species are endemic to the Batanes and Babuyan Islands. Threatened species include Lilium philippinensis, Podocarpus costalis, and P. polystchyus, which are being depleted as a result of the export trade. The mammals of Batanes Islands are poorly known. The largest population of the Ryukyu Flying Fox Pteropus dasymallu is reported to occur in Batan Island and Dalupiri and Fuga Islands of the Babuyan region. This bat is listed as globally Endangered by the IUCN and is in Appendix II of CITES. The only known Philippine distribution of the Indochinese shrew Crocidura attenuata is in this IBA. The waters off this IBA also support threatened marine species, including the green turtle Chelonia mydas, hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata, and the olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The forest areas in this IBA may be under localized pressure from clearance for cattle grazing and agricultural crops. There is some kaingin and over-exploitation of forest products, but widespread agricultural intensification is believed to be unlikely. The greatest threats are probably from future commercial development, especially for the tourist market. There is some hunting of wildlife, including a striking variety of yellow and white vipers which are sought after by enthusiasts for its supposed medicinal value. Coconut crabs and fruitbats that are both exported as a delicacy, and migrating Grey-faced Buzzards Butastur indicus that are captured for local consumption and the pet trade. Local people complain that Taiwanese fishermen are damaging the fish resources by using such techniques as dynamite fishing.

Protected areas
The Batanes Islands was proclaimed a protected area under the category of Protected Landscape and Seascape by virtue of RA8991 on January 5, 2001. It covers a total area of 213,578 ha, including 20,323 ha of land and 193,255 ha of marine areas. The Batanes Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape is one of the ten priority sites under the World Bank-GEF funded CPPAP. In early 2000, Batanes was proposed as a Man And Biosphere (MAB) Reserve to UNESCO.

Habitat and land use
About 64% of the land area of the Batanes Islands is classified as forest, but most of this has been converted to agricultural land or grassland. A few fragmented primary forests remain, and secondary forests are found in old kaingin clearings. Habitat types include beach forest, secondary forest, lowland evergreen rainforest and montane forest. Non-forest habitat types include montane grassland, agricultural lands around the towns of Basco and Mahatao, and man-made pastures. The largest remaining area of forest is on Mt Iraya on Batan, though there are reports that Itbayat is still substantially forested. Sabtang has less remaining forest, despite its relatively low human population, and Ivuhos is run as a cattle ranch and only has scrubby coastal vegetation. On Mt Iraya, forest covers approximately 50-60% of the land area. It includes lowland forest from 200-500 m and lower montane forest from 500-800 m. Montane grassland is found above 800 m, the low altitude treeline being caused by the strong typhoons that affect this part of the Philippines. Regenerating or disturbed primary forest is found at an altitude of 50-100 m.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Batanes Islands. Downloaded from on 02/10/2022.