Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park: home of Philippine Eagle pair for 10 years

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 May) — The Jurong Bird Park of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) will be the new home of a pair of captive-bred Philippine Eagles that will be transported on June 4 from the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos district.

Andi Baldonado, development project manager of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) told a press briefing on Monday that everything has been prepared at the bird park where the eagles will be staying for 10 years.

She said a bird keeper from the Jurong Bird Park will join a team from PEF during the transport of the eagles from Davao to Singapore via Manila while a team of experts from PEF will stay in Singapore to provide assistance to WRS during the quarantine phase of eagles Geothermica and Sambisig.

Andi Baldonado, development project manager of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and Dr. Jayson C. Ibañez, PEF’s director of research and conservation, discuss the loan of a pair of Philippine Eagles to Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park during the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday, 27 May 2019. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

“The priority is for birds to be able to adjust to the new environment and also because there’s an exchange of experience and knowledge between our keepers and keepers of Jurong, how to take care of these birds well while in their care,” she said.

She said the pair has been selected for the loan program because they are bred in captivity, making them the best possible candidates for the loan program since captive-bred eagles are more accustomed to human activities and are said to have more resilience in the face of stressful situations as compared to those in the wild.

“They (were) hatched in captivity at the Philippine Eagle Center and because of that, they have a better chance to withstand the stress of transport or travel from the Philippines to Singapore. They are also less prone to carry disease, going to Singapore,” she said.

Baldonado said Geothermica and Sambisig are currently under a pairing attempt process that puts them inside enclosures with a partition screen that allows them to see each other while preventing any physical harm.

“They are seen often perched near each other. Because of that we are hoping that this will progress into becoming a natural pair,” she said.

Geothermica and Sambisig are adopted by Energy Development Corporation and Dow Chemical Philippines Inc., respectively.

Safety net

Dr. Jayson C. Ibañez, PEF’s director of research and conservation, explained that the purpose of a loan program is to ensure a disease or a calamity will not eliminate the genetic stock of the Philippines eagle, the national bird of the Philippines.

He said the birds will leave Davao for Singapore via Philippine Airlines. T|he PEF team will ensure the safety of the birds by following the right protocols in transporting the eagles. 

“The transport is designed so that birds are exposed to less stress, for example, during transport, the leather hood will be placed to cover their eyes and since, wala silang nakikita they are more relaxed during the transport,” he said.

He said the loan program is intended as a “safety net or insurance policy just in case the Philippines gets challenged by diseases such as bird flu as well as effects of climate change, like strong typhoons and storm” that can potentially wipe out the Philippine Eagles.

He said the PEF took 10 years to work on the loan program between the Philippine government and Singapore but added it saw the need to rush things when an outbreak of H5 strain of avian influenza hig parts of Luzon.

“I think the reason why it took a decade, of course, it’s a new concept, our government and other partners would have to sort of evaluate pa … but meanwhile I think the major push came after the first case of avian flu incidents in Pampanga, Central Luzon last 2017… That’s sort of a wake-up call. If avian flu, which is lethal can happen in the Philippines, there is a chance that it can also affect our breeding population in Davao City,” he said.

File photo of a Philippine eagle from the website of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

He said the PEF provided WRS with recommendations on the construction of the eagles’ cages in Singapore.

“The WRS got recommendations from our team at the breeding facility, once the birds arrive in Singapore, of course, they will undergo the standard quarantine required by the government… The design of the cages are actually based on the recommendations of our team at the PEF Center, there should be enough space, at the right temperature, and the perch branches should be properly coated with safe materials, etc,” he said.

He said the staff of the WRS were also trained by the PEF to learn to properly take care of the eagles.

Ibañez said the PEF team will stay and work with the keepers in charge at Jurong Bird Park “as long as necessar, until behavior of the pari shows that they have fully acclimatized and are comfortable inside their new holding cages.”

Breeding

“It is a very detailed and precise process and that is to make sure once the birds arrive in Singapore, they are safe and they are secure, and the right environment is provided so that they eventually pair up and then breed,” he said.

Ibañez said the two captive-bred eagles were conceived through the natural breeding method.

He added Sambisig, a 17-year old female eagle, and Geothermica, 15-year old male eagle are at their breeding prime.

“The primary goal is to breed the birds in captivity and if they are successful, the offspring will be brought back to the Philippines and released to places where we have lost our eagles. This is part of several strategies to restore Philippine eagle population,” he said (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)  

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