Thursday, April 14, 2011

Expedition of Sierra Madre to pay tribute to top botanist Leonard Co

Last November 15, while he was cataloguing plant species in the forests of Kananga, Leyte, Leonard Co was a killed in the crossfire between the military and suspected NPA rebels.

From April 19 to 25, family and friends of Leonard Co will traverse the Northern Sierra Madre to pay tribute to his life and work. The expedition intends to fulfill the wish of Co to have his ashes scattered in Palanan, Isabela where he conducted most of his pioneering work.

The expedition team of 30 trekkers will consist of scientists and members of the U.P. Mountaineers (UPM), the organization of which he was a part of and who awarded him the title of ‘Mountaineer of the Year’ last year.

Darwin Flores, Leonard’s brother-in-law, conceived of and will lead the expedition team, while veteran explorer mountaineer and artist-teacher Bobby Acosta is trek leader.

Continuing Leonard’s work

Another objective of the expedition is to highlight the ecological significance of the Northern Sierra Madre. Several members of the expedition will also conduct a quick biodiversity assessment along the trail.

The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park is a 400,000+ hectare Dipterocarp forest, watershed and wildlife sanctuary. It is arguably the largest remaining block of old-growth forest in the country. Approximately 45% of all Philippine endemic plants can be found within its lush, primeval forests. Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and Philippine crocodiles (Crocodylus mindorensis) are just two of 154 recorded endemic animals which thrive within and around the park. Rafflesia leonardi, the eight Rafflesia species found in the Philippines and present within the Sierra Madre’s lush forests, was named after Co.

The expedition is wholly dedicated to Co, a scientist who valued the importance of the Sierra Madre’s biodiversity. It is a showcase of true adventure dedicated to Filipino greatness and unity and of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is about scientific discovery and outdoor exploration in the last great wilderness of the Philippines, a fitting tribute to the life of a true legend.

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