PH052
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Natural Park / Cleopatra's Needle


Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
St Paul's Subterranean River National Park is on west coast of Palawan, c.81 km north of Puerto Princesa. It is bounded to the north by St Paul Bay, and to the south by Babuyan River. The landforms in the park are associated with rocky mountains (of marble AND LIMESTONE) running from north to south. The main feature is an 8.2 km underground river, and there are also spectacular limestone formations. Note that the boundaries of the IBA have been extended beyond those of the park, to include an adjacent area of good forest around Mt Cleopatra, where there have been recent records of threatened and restricted-range birds. Two-thirds of the area is covered by lush tropical rainforest from the shoreline to the highest peak, and one-third is thinly vegetated karst limestone. The vegetation types include lowland forest (often with a 35 m canopy), coastal forest and karst forest. There is a small human population in the park, whose livelihoods are fishing and farming.

Key biodiversity
This National Park is currently a popular destination for visiting bird-watchers, and most of the threatened and restricted-range birds of the Palawan Endemic Bird Area have been recorded there. Several threatened species are regularly seen in the extensive lowland forests there, and the populations of Palawan Peacock-pheasant and Philippine Cockatoo in the park are particularly important.

Non-bird biodiversity: The area is known to support large populations of cave roosting bats, plus the endemic threatened Palawan flying fox Acerodon leucotis, Oriental small-clawed otter Amblonyx cinereus, Palawan stink-badger Mydaus marchei, binturong Arctictis binturong, Palawan flying squirrel Hylopetes nigripes, Palawan montane tree squirrel Sundasciurus rabori and Palawan porcupine Hystrix pumila. The underground river supports plant species, such as Dracontemelon dao, Pometia primata and Diospyrus sp.



Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The human population in the park is currently small, occupying an area suitable for rice cultivation on both sides of the Cabayugan River. However, many small areas adjacent to the park had been cleared for cultivation in the early 1990s, which could pose a serious long-term threat to the forests inside the park. Some logging has recently been reported from inside the park, and the gathering of rattans would pose a major problem if left unchecked. However, the park is relatively well manned and actively managed by the local government of Palawan.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
All of Palawan and associated islands are included in a Biosphere reserve, declared in 1990. An integrated management plan has been prepared for the whole Palawan Biosphere Reserve (ECAN), to zone the island, incorporate the existing St Paul's Subterranean National Park and other protected areas. This IBA includes terrestrial core zone (primitive wilderness area strictly protected) and buffer zone (regulated use allowed) areas. A proposal was made in the early 1990s to extend the park by 32,500 ha to include the whole of the adjacent Babuyan River catchment, including the areas of good forest around Mt Cleopatra (which are already part of the IBA).

Protected areas
St. Paul Subterranean River National Park (3,901 ha) was declared by Proc. No. 835 on 26 March 1971.

Habitat and land use
St Paul's Subterranean River National Park is on west coast of Palawan, c.81 km north of Puerto Princesa. It is bounded to the north by St Paul Bay, and to the south by Babuyan River. The landforms in the park are associated with rocky mountains (of marble AND LIMESTONE) running from north to south. The main feature is an 8.2 km underground river, and there are also spectacular limestone formations. Note that the boundaries of the IBA have been extended beyond those of the park, to include an adjacent area of good forest around Mt Cleopatra, where there have been recent records of threatened and restricted-range birds. Two-thirds of the area is covered by lush tropical rainforest from the shoreline to the highest peak, and one-third is thinly vegetated karst limestone. The vegetation types include lowland forest (often with a 35 m canopy), coastal forest and karst forest. There is a small human population in the park, whose livelihoods are fishing and farming.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Natural Park / Cleopatra's Needle. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/11/2020.