DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 20 July)– While it is crucial to seek more donors to save the Philippine eagle from extinction, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) admitted that it is utterly careful in accepting funds for the survival of the country’s national bird.
At the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos district, 12 of the 36 Philippine eagles in captivity are still up for adoption.
Dennis Salvador, PEF executive director, told MindaNews that there are companies that are insistent to support the foundation.
But Salvador clarified that the foundation has a policy in screening their partners, especially if the company is involve in resource extraction.
“Ang iba namimilit (Others are persistent). But sometimes, their intentions are clear, which is to whitewash their companies, to make it appear that they are green. But people nowadays can see through, so we are becoming strict in screening the donors rather than expose the foundation to criticisms,” he explained.
Salvador, on the other hand, stressed that there are some instances when they have to work with some of the companies “because they [PEF] wanted to influence them and to promote greener solutions in what they do.”
President Fidel Ramos officially declared the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) as the national bird in 1995.
Meanwhile, real state developer Avida Land on Thursday entered into a three-year sponsorship with the foundation.
Christopher Maglanoc, Avida Land president, said it is very crucial to preserve the Philippine eagle, as “it is a good symbol for what needs to be done for the environment, for our heritage.”
Avida Land initially donated P125,000 to the foundation for a 12-year old eagle now known as “Avida.” She was previously named Princess of Tupi since she was injured and rescued in Tupi, South Cotabato in 2005.
The sponsorship fund covers the care and maintenance of the eagle, monitoring of nests in the wild, pay for the keepers and veterinarians, and support to the programs of the foundation.
Ana Mae Sumaya, curator for breeding conservation program, told MindaNews that to ensure the safety of the raptors, the foundation breeds their own food that include rabbit, quails, mouse and fish.
Sumaya added that the Philippine eagles at the center alone could consume at least 14 rabbits a day, or equivalent to 14 kilograms.
Overall, including fish, mouse and quail, all the raptors in the center can consume around 22 kg of food daily.
Aside from the Philippine eagles, the center is also home to sea eagles, hawks, owls, monkeys, wild pig, deer and other wild animals.
Decline in population
With the rapid destruction of the forest covers in the country, this could also lead to the drastic decline of the population of the Philippine eagle in the country.
Rolando Pinsoy, PEF, communications officer, said their data showed that there are around 500 pairs of Philippine eagles across the country, mostly concentrated in Mindanao.
A pair of eagle can cover an estimated territory of 7,000 to 13,000 hectares of forest.
In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species, listed the Philippine eagle as critically endangered.
But for now, Salvador said, “the decline in the Philippine eagle population” is not that drastic yet as they are still finding new eagle population in some areas that they never expected.
For instance in the forests of the Cordillera Region, the PEF last November discovered a pair of Philippine eagle.
“Previously it was not known if the Philippine eagle exists in these areas. Hopefully, that will bring the numbers up,” Salvador said, pointing to the discovery.
But in the other parts of the country, he said, they are expecting a decline due to the reduction of their forest habitats.
”As the forest become fragmented, the birds become more exposed to humans. They therefore become vulnerable to shootings or being captured [by men],” Salvador said.
He stressed that at least 90% of the eagles do not reach adulthood.
“This is an alarming data. This situation indicates that the old breeding populations are not being replaced,” he explained.
“If these pairs become unproductive later on as they age, there are no birds to replace them. If that happens, we can expect a drastic crash in population. Before we know it, we’d probably lose the Philippine eagle. We’ll have a national bird that doesn’t exist,” Salvador pointed out.
Currently, he added, the foundation is monitoring their population across the country. “The onus of our work is trying to discover nesting territories in the island of Samar and Luzon.”
But in Leyte, after years of investigating the nesting site, they found out that the Philippine eagle is extinct in the island.
“So there is now that work to validate that finding. And secondly, to attempt to restore the Philippine eagle population in Leyte, if we could,” Salvador said. (Keith Bacongco/ Mindanews)