Past Project

Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat


2010 – 2016


Palawan, Philippines



The lush island province of Palawan is in the southwest of the Philippines. Due to a relatively low population density, the island has been spared from the major deforestation tragedy that took place in the rest of the Philippines. Nevertheless, the island remains relatively understudied and its forests are currently diminishing quickly as a result of large development projects.

There is a silver lining though: Puerto Princesa. This progressive City located in the middle portion of the island covers around 20% of province and holds a forest cover of 65%. Puerto Princesa contains one national park (Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park—22,000 hectares) but approximately 80,000 hectares of pristine forest neighboring the park until very recently remained unprotected. The centre of this large forest is shaped by Cleopatra’s Needle, the highest peak of Puerto Princesa City and surroundings (1,593 MASL).

This area is a real biological gem—not only is it the last haven for countless endemic flora and fauna species, it further serves as the largest watershed in the City, providing water for approximately 30% of the residents in the City. Most importantly, it is the ancestral domain of the last remaining 200 members of the diminishing indigenous Batak tribe, who have inhabited the area since time immemorial.

For these reasons, our partners and us are extremely pleased to announce that after over 5 years of persistent hard work, 41,350 hectares of primary forest was officially protected through the creation of the Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat (CNCH) —the biggest Critical Habitat of the Philippines and a big win for local Batak tribe and other indigenous groups!

For some of the scientific discoveries we made in this amazing area see our reports section.

Researchers find treasure trove of unique, threatened animals in Philippine forest.

May 2015 – Mongabay


Palaw The survey was a collaborative effort between the Centre for Sustainability (a non-profit organization based in Puerto Princesa City), the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), Survival Alliance, and the Rainforest Trust. Global Wildlife Conservation and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) funded the expedition, which will continue until August, 2015.

Malatgan River Caecilian

See the elusive Malatgan River Caecilian (Caudacaecilia weberi) rediscovered during one of our expeditions at Cleopatra’s Needle.

The Asian small-clawed otter in situ, Palawan – Philippines

For some amazing camera trap videos made by our students and research associates of different mammals that live around Cleopatra’s Needle please visit our YouTube account. Watch for example this great video with small-clawed otters (Amblonyx cinereus) catching frogs at Cleopatra’s Needle.

Palawan Leopard Cat Hunting.

Don’t miss this beautiful video of Palawan leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis heaneyi) hunting in the forests of Cleopatra’s Needle.