Neil D’CRUZE spent three weeks in the thick, mountainous rainforest of Negros Island in the Philippines using hi-tech surveillance technology to try to photograph the endangered Visayan Spotted Deer and Visayan Warty Pig.
The animals are both close to extinction after years of habitat destruction and hunting.
But Dr D’Cruze, of Long Lane, Hillingdon, returned home triumphant with the pictures he wanted.
The former Douay Martyrs School pupil captured more than 4,000 hours of film during the Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition in April.
He successfully overcame the jungle terrain, which has barely been explored by humans, so difficult is it to reach.
The images of the animals were achieved using 20 remote camera traps, the first time this technique had been used on Negros Island to catalogue the mammal species living there.
On his return to west London, Dr D’Cruze told the Gazette: “It was just an amazing experience.
“The whole time we had a sense of the animals being there but we could never see them without the cameras.
“There is a volcanic area with steep slopes and you are 1,580 metres above sea level. It was some of the hardest conditions of any of the 35 countries I have been to.”
Dr D’Cruze had travelled all over the world in his job as a wildlife officer with the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and has spent 18 months living in Madagascar.
He decided to lead this special expedition using annual leave from his job. “It was self-funded with some colleagues,” he explained.
“It was a personal adventure, but we also wanted to help preserve the animals in this particular part of the world.
“We wanted to do a biodiversity assessment and find out more about the species that live on this island. From talking to local experts, we knew there was a chance we could find these rare pigs and deer.
“Given how much habitat loss there has been on Negros, we wanted to show how important that area is.
“About 80,000 hectares of rainforest have been cut down there and now there are only 16,000 hectares left.”
Much of the island’s habitat has been exploited for timber and then used for sugar plantations, but the North Negros Natural Park has recently been protected by new legislation.
A previous exploration of the park by a group of scientists and mountaineers in 2009 found evidence that Visayan Spotted Deer were still inhabiting the area, but with probably only 300 surviving.
The small deer is found only in tropical rainforests up to about 1,500m and has been extensively hunted.
Meanwhile, the critically endangered Visayan Warty Pig is currently restricted to only two of the Visayan Islands to which it is currently endemic.
Dr D’Cruze added: “Gaining images of such globally important species is great news for conservation and shows that Philippine forests continue to harbour many rare and unique species despite the myriad of threats and challenges they face.
“Despite these animals being unique to the area, Philippine conservation remains critically under-supported and funded in its fight to protect and restore these ecosystems.”