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The 64,053.00 hectares Mount Apo Natural Park is dominated by the highest mountain in the Philippine archipelago, the majestic Mt. Apo, a volcanic mountain rising to 3,143.6 meters above sea level. Mt Apo hosts five (5) distinct forest formations, from lowland forest to low montane forest, high montane forest and finally to summit or scrub forest. In addition to variations in its topography, interactions of other factors, such as, climate, soil, geology, slope and drainage have allowed for the development of a wide diversity in plant community types and associations in the region.
Mt. Apo is considered to be one of the richest botanical mountains in the region hosting hundreds of rare, endemic and threatened species of flora. An estimated eight hundred (800) vascular and non vascular plant species among Mt. Apo's endemics were collected between 300 meters asl and 1000 meters asl. Identified floral species includes 629 species, 42 of which are endemic and 18 species are considered at risk, including the Vanda sanderiana (Waling-Waling) which is recognized as the "Queen of Philippine Orchids" and recommended by plant enthusiasts as the Philippine National Flower. Endemics identified at each forest formation, between 300 meters asl. and 1000 meters asl. include members of the genera Pipturus, Sauravia and Poikilospermum. Humalanthus populneus, Elephantopus spicatus, Piper apoanum and Vanda sanderiana are possibly extinct in the wild. Endemic at mild altitudes include the endangered Lithocarpus submonticolus and Peperonia elmeri. In the upper montane forest, the endemic species are Cypholopus microphyllus and Nepenthus copelandi. Thirty-seven (37) species were highly valued, such as, the endangered Agathis philippinensis (almaciga) and dipterocarps, such as the rare Vatica manggachapoi and Shorea palita (Lauan).
The property is the habitat of a total of 227 vertebrate species belonging to 59 families of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Likewise, 118 species of butterflies belonging to 69 families are recorded in the area. There are 272 species of birds, wherein 111 (40%) are endemic to Mount Apo and 2 species are in the critical list. One endemic but critically endangered bird species is Pithecophaga jefferyi (Philippine Eagle) whose remaining population is believed to be only around 500. The Philippine eagle is of outstanding universal value for science and conservation, whose nesting and feeding areas are located in dipterocarp forests including closed canopy forests. It is the second largest eagle in the world. The aviator Charles Lindbergh, as representative of the World Wildlife Fund, proclaimed it as "the air's noblest flyer." The Philippine eagle is the nation's symbol and is locally known as "haribon" or bird king. With a wingspan of two meters, this bird of prey boasts the largest surface area in its wings among all eagle species. Like the giant panda of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary, recently inscribed as a World Heritage Site at the 30th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Vilnius last July, the Philippine eagle is a wonder of nature of great charisma. This bird is not found elsewhere in the world and has become the symbol of Philippine conservation efforts. Widespread destruction of its habitat and collection is driving this species to extinction. Another endemic bird species in the critical list is Cacatua heamatopygia (Abukay).
Mt Apo belongs to the 15 biogeographic zones in the Philippines considered to have the highest land-based biological diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area. It is a Pliocene-Quaternary volcanic terrain, which provided opportunity for diversity of habitats, plant and animal species due to high altitude.
As the Philippines' highest peak, Mount Apo's base covers about 71,796 hectares of mountain ranges that extend to two (2) regions of Mindanao from Davao City, Bansalan, Digos and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur in Region 11 and Makilala, Magpet and Kidapawan, North Cotabato in Region 12. Mount Apo harbors the largest number of few remaining identified habitats of the majestic and endemic but endangered Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the most critically threatened bird species in the Philippines of outstanding universal value for science and conservation, whose nesting and feeding areas are located in dipterocarp forests including closed canopy forests. Aside from the Philippine eagle, Mount Apo also hosts hundreds of endemic species of flora and fauna. Its floral list includes 629 species, 42 of which are endemic and 18 species are considered at risk, including the Waling-Waling (Vanda sanderiana) which is recognized as the Queen of Philippine Orchids and recommended by plant enthusiasts as the Philippine National Flower.
Mt. Apo is a declared Protected Area under Republic Act 9237 as a Natural Park. The management system is in place and the property is being managed by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Protected Area Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippines. It presents the highest and richest bio-diversity in terms of flora and fauna per unit area having unique, rare and threatened endemic species of outstanding universal value. Its outstanding value comes from its being a habitat and center of endemism of rare and threatened species.
Mount Apo Natural Park is being compared with Kinabalu Park in the State of Sabah on the northern end of the island of Borneo in Malaysia. This is dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Like Mount Apo, it has a very wide range of habitats, from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. It has been designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia and is exceptionally rich in species with examples of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, as well as pan-tropical flora. The Kinabalu NP is a 75,400ha park north Sabah; lowland montane tropical rainforest; high biodiversity with 75 of Borneo's 135 ficus species (13 endemic), and 72 Fagaceae species; 25% of fauna species are endemic, 290 species of butterfly and moth.