EDIT: Thank you everyone for your important questions, I had a great time answering them! :) I’m dialling in from very remote field work here in Palawan, so it’s time for me to race off to meet our indigenous communities now. If you want to keep following our efforts, or you have more Qs, don’t hesitate to look me up IG/Twitter @karinamay_reyes, FB page @reyes.karinamay. Happy World Wildlife Day, & Power to the Forest! 🍃🌳


Hi! I’m KM, a conservation lobbyist, National Geographic Explorer, and Co-Founder of the Centre for Sustainability PH (CS). We’re a women-led, youth, environmental nonprofit on Palawan island, known as the Philippines’ Last Ecological Frontier. Our Mission is to conserve our country’s last remaining 3% of pristine rainforest through establishment of national parks. We achieve this through community organizing, scientific research, and political lobbying.

Our biggest achievement was spearheading the legal establishment of the Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat in 2017. At 41,350 hectares, it is now the Philippines’ biggest critical habitat, or nearly 2.5 times’ Washington DC! It is the highest mountain and largest watershed of Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa City, the ancestral domain of the last 200 members of the disappearing indigenous Batak tribe, and home to countless endemic and threatened flora and fauna, including the #1 poached animal globally, the Pangolin.

We’re now working to establish our SECOND national park in southern Palawan, called Kensad, home to the indigenous Tagbanua tribe who have protected this swathe of pristine rainforest since time immemorial.

I am passionate about professionalizing conservation, improving gender equality, and the recognition of indigenous land rights. For more information about our work, follow us on social media @centreforsustainabilityph and @karinamay_reyes.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/kmfu0b1yfhk61.jpg

Comments: 31 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

Leenzlions6 karma

Hi KM! What’s the biggest hurdle or obstacle you face in your work? Also what is one thing that you think everyone should focus their efforts on in order to help with forest conservation?

nationalgeographic8 karma

Hi! Thank you for your Q! :) Frontline forest conservation is an upward climb on so many levels, esp considering that we are the second-most dangerous country globally for environment & land defenders. But in our experience at CS, the biggest obstacles we face are:

nationalgeographic3 karma

  1. Being women leaders & lobbyists. From day one we have worked in a male-dominated environment where patriarchy reigns supreme from field work to board rooms, & our abilities are openly questioned every step of the way!

nationalgeographic7 karma

  1. Funding for human resources in environmental projects is extremely scarce, & it effectively renders us career volunteers, rather than conservation professionals.

nationalgeographic5 karma

  1. As a result of the above, we’re a tiny team executing huge projects! For eg. in our flagship site Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat we ate 6 staff liaising with countless stakeholders from the local to international level, & conducting field work in a forest area that is 41,350 ha. or 2.5 times’ Washington DC!

nationalgeographic5 karma

Lastly, we’re young, we’re a young organisation trying to convince powerful decision-makers that are often twice our age!

nationalgeographic5 karma

& I think everyone should focus their efforts on how to support local communities living in & depending on our forests for sustainable conservation :).

punkoifish3 karma

Have you ever met a tribe's person, or did you have an encounter with a very rare animal or plant?

nationalgeographic4 karma

Hi! Thank you for your question. Indigenous tribal communities are our primary partner, because the forest areas we are trying to protect are their ancestral lands. They have safeguarded these areas since time immemorial, & their knowledge of the forest is unparalleled. We have so much to learn from them in protecting our wild places as well as they have for thousands of years :).

So we’ve spent many years working with indigenous peoples now, & will continue to do so to ensure conservation is sustainable, because they really know best how to care for our rainforests :).

tanglekelp2 karma

Hi! I’m currently doing my bachelors in tropical forestry and I was wondering, how did you get where you are? I’ve been looking for internships but so far I mostly find for profit organisations, I want to work on a real project and do something good! Another question, is there a lot of resistance from local people?

nationalgeographic4 karma

Hi! Great Q! :) My academic background is political sciences. For me, sustainable conservation will only be possible if we have strong laws & policies in place to support, manage, & enforce it :). So I started in community organising in urban settings before realising that we had to connect our communities to our immediate local environments to overcome our biggest conservation challenges. There are lots of small grassroots organisations who would love your skills like CS :).

nationalgeographic4 karma

Working with local communities is an investment, & like all good relationships we’ve had our ups and downs. In our experience, we’ve learnt that when we make our intentions clear, are transparent about our methods, & communicate effectively we have been able to overcome even our biggest problems. What I see now with our stakeholders is that even when there is a difference of opinion, the lines of communication are open to negotiate & find solutions.

SlightlyCrisp242 karma

How significant is the protection of rainforests? At what point will we (as a human population) go too far and destroy too much? Thank you for protecting Earth!

nationalgeographic4 karma

Hi! Thank you for your important Q! Rainforests cover less than 10% of the planet’s land surface, but house approximately 50 million people & over 50% of Mother Earth’s biodiversity! The United Nations says that 30% of our planet, land & water, must be protected by 2030 to ensure clean drinking water & a stable global climate. So protecting our forests, especially as major carbon sinks for greenhouse gas emissions, is critical!

Gelirya2 karma

Hi KM! I was wondering what are the easiest ways an average person can help with forest conservation that people may overlook?

nationalgeographic3 karma

Hi! Thank you for your great Q. Firstly, plant a tree in your own neighbourhood, & keep it alive :). This way you’re starting your own local forest. Also, supporting local frontline groups in any way you can is very powerful for us (follow, volunteer, donate). Even ust a simple follow on social makes a big difference—when we have a wider audience, our local decision-makers really have listen to us!

riverotter681 karma

what is being done to combat poaching and illegal forestry?

nationalgeographic2 karma

Hi! Thank you for your important Q. At Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat where we’ve focused most of our our conservation efforts, we facilitated the training of 39 indigenous & local community members of the area as forest rangers. They are now patrolling the area, with support from government & enforcement agencies. It’s also important to examine the root causes of wildlife & timber poaching, which is often poverty & lack of other livelihood opportunities. So we’re also facilitating efforts together with the Management Committee for the area to provide more sustainable livelihoods like eco-tourism.

pussgurka1 karma

What is the biggest challenge in your work and how do you plan to overcome them?

nationalgeographic2 karma

Hi! Thank you for your important Q. To overcome our challenges there are three key things that we always apply. First, we’re persistent! We never lose sight of our long-term goals, no matter how challenging the daily grind gets. Second, network, network, network. We’re always looking for & commecting with people that believe in our work & harness their skills to make our efforts more impactful. Third, Kill ‘em with kindness! We’re firm, but we always keep our smile on when people are trying to block our conservation efforts :).

tastessssssss1 karma

I love all the work you do and hope to start a career focused around conservation soon!

My question to you is how did you become involved with NatGeo and what is it like working with them?

Thanks so much!

nationalgeographic3 karma

Hi! Thank you for your encouragement, it means the forest to us—really! I first got involved with NatGeo by winning a grant, & they generously supported my project to train our community rangers at Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat as parabiologists. This way, these rangers can now conduct independent biodiversity surveys while on patrol :).

nationalgeographic3 karma

Being a part of the NatGeo family has truly been transformative. I’m very fortunate to be counted among a group of leaders & pioneers in storytelling, science, conservation, education, among countless other disciplines! It’s so inspiring!!! Besides giving grants, NatGeo is also so important because they give us so many other training opportunities, & platforms like this to reach a wider audience & share our message :).