Unlike most of the Philippines, Palawan is biogeographically part of Sundaland, with a fauna and flora related to that found in Borneo.
Palawan has 700,000 hectares of forests (as of 2010) and has been called the Philippines’ “last biodiversity frontier.”
Among the many endemic species are the Palawan peacock-pheasant, Philippine mouse-deer, Philippine pangolin, Palawan bearded pig, and Palawan birdwing. In the forests and grasslands, the air resonates with the songs of more than 200 kinds of birds. Over 600 species of butterflies flutter around the mountains and fields of Palawan, attracted to some 1500 hosts plants found here. Endangered sea turtles nest on white sand beaches. Sea turtles usually go to the nutrient-rich coastal waters of Palawan to rest and look for food. Dugong numbers have fallen seriously, although Palawan still has a larger population than any other part of the country, and organizations such as Community Centred Conservation (C3) are working to end the unsustainable use of marine resources in Palawan and in Philippines.
Total forest cover is about 56 percent of the total land area of the province while mangrove forest accounts for 3.35 percent based on the 1998 Landsat imagery. Grasslands dwindled from 19 percent in 1992 to 12.40 percent in 1998. This is an indication of improving soil condition as deteriorating soil is normally invaded by grass species. Brushlands increased to 25 percent of the total land area. Sprawled beneath the seas are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, representing more than 35% of the country’s coral reefs.
Palawan, the only Philippine island cited, is rated by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers as the most beautiful island in the world and is also rated by the National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region in 2007, and the equal 27th best island in the world having “incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines. The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since the early 1990s, showing local interest for conservation and sustainable development”.
The province was also categorized as “doing well” in the 4th Destination Scorecard survey conducted by the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, and Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted its beaches, coves and islets as the tourist destination with the best beaches in Asia. Renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau has described the province as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world. and Caril Ridley, founder of Palawan Environmental and Marine Studies Center (PEMS) says the Islands of northern Palawan are destined to become a future destination for Asia’s growing economic and environmental conferencing.
In 2007, a “shrew-eating pitcher plant”, named Nepenthes attenboroughii was discovered in Mount Victoria. There were many species of pitcher plants discovered in this wild mountain paradise, the most recent is named Nepenthes leonardoi. In 2012, the purple crab was discovered here along with four other species.