Despite new restrictions on logging, experts from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
estimate that 10,000 hectares are still cleared monthly. Only 21% of forest cover remains, and future predictions
are gloomy indeed - in 30 years the forests of the tropics will completely disappear.
"I was always interested in protecting the environment," she says. "If I'm going to live here for the rest of my
life, I have to do something . . . to help stop the slash and burn . . . to help save the marine life."
Last year she raised 66 baby turtles on beds of seaweed. When they were three months old she released them to the
sea. "They were from only four or five nests. I probably missed others - they are hard to find - the female makes
lots of decoy holes," she says.
"They were the lucky ones. At that age most will survive. But normally most don't make it . . . the birds get them
before they can flip-flop their way to the sea. People probe the beach with spears, looking for the eggs. But the
crabs are the worst - they just wait in ambush."
A small bird alights near the kitchen. "The male sun bird," Lee Ann says. "He spends hours preening himself in
front of the mirror."
The island has an incredible range of wildlife: three varieties of kingfisher, toucans with huge horn bills,
herons, and even bats. Swiftlets nest high up in the limestone cliffs, but not high enough or remote enough to be
safe from human predators. "Restaurants as far away as Hong Kong and Taiwan pay top money for the nests," she says.
"It's illegal, but that's where bird's nest soup comes from. It's also where the name El Nido comes from - it's
Spanish, meaning 'The Nest'."
Sea snakes live in caves at the eastern end of the beach. She assures us they are not aggressive. Two moray eels
live out where "Gizmo" is moored, and nearby she tends 20 giant clams. "There's not much I can do for the clams
except keep fishermen away," she says. "But I have a special permit that authorizes me to stop illegal fishing . .
. and the fishermen know I mean business."
Giant monitor lizards live on the island. "We shoot them," Lee Ann says.
"You shoot them?"
We are amazed. Here is a lady so dedicated to the environment that she can't bring herself to drop an anchor in
case it damages the coral, and yet she shoots monitor lizards?
"Well . . . yes. They hassle the birds and eat the turtle eggs. Besides, they taste like chicken."