The extensive Mt Apo range lies at the meeting point of Davao City and the provinces of Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. The Mt Apo National Park includes two high peaks, Mt Apo, which is the highest in the Philippines at 2,954 m, and Mt Talomo (2,674m). Mt Talomo is an extinct volcano, but Mt Apo, though appearing dormant, has numerous vents producing steam and sulphurous gases. The northern and north-eastern slopes of Mt Apo and neighbouring mountains are gradual, but those on the west descend abruptly to the Cotabato Valley and those on the east abruptly to the lowlands of Davao. The south-eastern slope is bisected by the Marawin and Sibulan rivers. At 2,400 m there is a flat, plateau-like area of 6-7 km2 and a 500 m high cone. The north-eastern slopes of Mt Apo drain into the Davao and Talo rivers and their tributaries. Mt Apo is one of the wettest places in the Philippines, with a mean annual rainfall of c.2,500 mm. The main natural habitats on Mt Apo are lowland dipterocarp forest, although this has mostly been cleared for cultivation, lower and upper montane forests, “elfin woodland”, scrub and summit grassland. Forest at and below 1,000 m has mostly been cleared, but there are remnants on the sides of ravines. The forest cover increases with elevation, and at 1,500 m extensive mossy forest begins, characterised by gnarled and twisted oak trees covered with moss and epiphytes. Mossy forest gives way to scrub and grassland at c.2,700 m. Some important areas of forest which lie outside the Mt Apo National Park are included in the IBA, for example the forests on Mt Makaindos in Barangay Libertad, and the forests in Barangay Imamaling and Don Panaca. Six ethnic tribes live on the mountain, which is a sacred place for the Lumad tribal people and is their last remaining home. There are also large numbers of settlers present on the lower slopes of the mountain, who are reported to total 7,000 families occupying c.25,800 ha of the park. The spectacular scenery of Mt Apo makes it a popular destination for tourism, especially adventure tourism and mountaineering. The attractions of the mountain include hot springs and lakes, the sulphurous volcanic cone, Marbel River (which has milky white water) and several waterfalls.
Many of the threatened and restricted-range species of the Mindanao and Eastern Visayas Endemic Bird Area have been recorded on Mt Apo. The old Philippine Eagle centre at Baracatan was manned by resident ornithologists for many years and it remains a popular site for birdwatchers, and there are recent records of many of these birds from that part of the mountain. The population of Philippine Eagle on Mt Apo has been studied in detail since the 1960s, and it remains an important site for the conservation of this critically endangered species. It is one of only three sites where the poorly known Whitehead's Swiftlet has been recorded. Mt Apo still support substantial populations of many montane forest specialists, including several which are only known from a handful of the higher mountains on Mindanao, such as Slaty-backed Jungle-flycatcher, Red-eared Parrotfinch and Apo Myna. However, the lowland forests around the base of the mountains have been almost entirely cleared or degraded, and Mt Apo is unlikely to support significant populations of many of the lowland and mid-altitude forest specialists which formerly occurred there, such as Mindanao Brown-dove, Spotted Imperial-pigeon and Silvery Kingfisher.
Non-bird biodiversity: There are estimated to be more than 800 vascular plant species on Mt Apo, including some local endemics. Plants with direct economic use include ornamental species, especially orchids, begonias, aroids and ferns. Many of the mammals endemic to Mindanao have been recorded in the park.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mount Apo Natural Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2019.