Rescued eagle released in Davao Sur

STA. CRUZ, Davao del Sur (MindaNews / 14 Oct) – Hedcor, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aboitiz Power Corp., released on Wednesday “Mabikker,” an adult pinksker’s hawk-eagle identified as an endangered species, in Barangay Sibulan here within the 64,053-hectare Mt. Apo Natural Park after it was rescued last month.

In an interview, Dr. Roberto Puentespina, a veterinarian for wildlife and a professor at the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UPMin), told reporters that the eagle’s chances of survival were slim, suffering from dehydration, starvation, and an injury on its left eye, when it was rescued Sept. 7 near Tomari Creek, one of the sources of water of Sibulan River.

Mabikker, a Bagobo-Tagabawa term for strength and power, was rescued by Bernie Apal, 36, a tribe member who chanced upon the eagle entangled and emaciated in a rattan up a cliff. The eagle was believed to be hunting for food at that time and got his left eye injured while trying to escape from the vines.

Apal said he felt sad about the eagle’s condition, the reason why he rescued it from being strapped to the vines, and walked three hours to the barangay hall of Sibulan to surrender the bird, which was later transferred under the care of Puentespina.

Apal said that it was the third time he encountered an eagle of such species after living in Barangay Sibulan for 10 years.

The eagle was rescued where Hedcor runs four run-of-river hydropower plants – the Sibulan Hydro A with a generating capacity of 16.50 MW, Sibulan Hydro B with 26 MW, and Tudaya Hydro 1 and Tudaya Hydro 2, with generating capacities of 6 MW and 7 MW, respectively.

Puentespina said that the bird, which weighed 500 grams when first brought in for treatment at the Malagos Garden Resort, gained about 300 grams in a span of a month while in his care.

“The only thing I did to help the eagle was to give it my tender love and care,” he said.

Most common cases of the rescued eagles, according to Puentespina, were either being gunned down, trapped, or starved.

He said it is important that eagles like Mabikker must be taken care of and preserved because they serve as biodiversity indicator that the environment is still healthy. The threats of deforestation, however, make their homes smaller while their food getting fewer.

“The eagles are meat-eaters,” Puentespina pointed out.

The bird’s starvation might have been caused by lack of food in the area, he said.

He added they are not discounting the possibility that the same incident might happen again but the eagle has to be released to the forests, its natural habitat.

The veterinarian appealed to residents to also do their share in protecting endangered species of eagles that if they happen to see any of them getting closer to their homes hunting on their backyard animals such as chickens, “ihatag na lang sa ilaha (just give it to them).”

Among the criteria considered that the bird was ready for release were good body condition, ability to fly, and recovery of its injured eye. The pinksker’s hawk-eagle has a lifespan of 40 to 50 years.

“We did not see signs of neurological deficit on the bird, meaning it has balance when we first saw it,” he said.

Hedcor president and chief operating officer Rene Ronquillo underscored the partnership between them and the local government unit.

He said they inked a memorandum of agreement with UPMin in December 2014 to do a study on Wildlife Inventory and Biodiversity and Assessment Project that includes seven sites in Sta. Cruz where Hedcor operates.

Ronquillo said this will help them come up with strategies how to conserve and preserve the wildlife within Hedcor’s immediate environs.

Puentespina, who is also part of the study with UPMin professor Marion John Michael Achondo as the head, added they lack such comprehensive study that will guide them what steps to take to help the wildlife.