Setting free Pamana on Independence Day

MT. HAMIGUITAN, Davao Oriental (MindaNews / 12 June) — The flight of Philippine Eagle Pamana on Friday, Philippine Independence Day  meant a lot of things to the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and its partners.

As it spread its wings to glide, it reignited national pride, accentuating its namesake: heritage.

The critically endangered Philippine Eagle is found nowhere else in the world except in only four islands of our country. PEF estimates that there are only 400 pairs remaining in the wild. Deforestation and shooting and trapping–all are human induced activities–are the looming threats to the eagles’ survival.

“Our national bird, the Philippine Eagle, is every inch a Filipino as each citizen of the archipelago,” Jayson Ibanez, PEF research and conservation, director said in his speech during the release event here Friday.

“A life of freedom is fundamental to the wellbeing of wildlife too,” he said.

The estimated 30,000 hectare forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site, will be home to Pamana as she claims her freedom and independence again after being under the care of PEF. The area was chosen because of quality of habitat.

The flight of Pamana also signified the continuing success of the science behind her rehabilitation in the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Davao since she was rescued from the mountains of Gabunan Range in Iligan City. She arrived in the center in April 2012.

According to PEC curator Anna Sumaya, she was found by a local perched on a tree near a creek, appearing weak and docile; it was later found out that she had a gunshot on her left breast and on her left wing.

“As one of a few hundred birds living in Mindanao island, her release would not only mean ending a life in captivity and human dependence. Her survival and eventual breeding will also reduce the extinction chances of her kind,” said Ibanez.

Ibanez also said that survival and breeding of every individual bird is important to prevent the extinction of the critically endangered Philippine Eagle; likewise, maintaining connectivity and inter breeding between groups living in different forests are also key to the species’ survival.

Pamana is predicted to connect  the existing eagles together and re-establish gene flow among them.

Pamana bears the bloodline of eagles in Lanao del Norte region, 245 km northwest of Hamiguitan. “If Pamana survives and breeds with a resident bird, bloodlines would mix. This is generally good for the eagle population as wildlife genetics would predict,” said Ibanex.

Pamana’s release also reflects good use of technology for the environment; people who are looking after her are constantly being given information about her plight through the GPS satellite tag and a radio transmitter. These devices allow for remote monitoring and location tracking. Technology use for the Philippine Eagle expands to the community too: for example, a telco brand has a mobile service that allows its subscribers to donate to PEF via an electronic wallet through text messaging.

As Pamana took flight, a everyone is reminded of their own responsibility to take care of the environment.

She strongly represents conservation and biodiversity–things about the environment that we are reminded to be concerned about as responsible citizens.

As she soared from the branch where she was perching on for about 10 minutes, everyone was also given a sense of security–that she will be safe in her new home.

Dennis Salvador, executive director of PEF, is expecting a high survival chance for Pamana because Mt. Hamiguitan is a protected area. This gives a better level of enforcement and awareness among the communities and stakeholders alike.

Having Pamana in the wild, according to Department of Tourism region 11 director Roberto Alabado III, means being able to strengthen efforts to turn Davao Region into an ecotourism destination. Tourists will be drawn to visit–but what’s more important is that the collective effort to protect the environment should be maintained. The area won’t be open to mass tourism. Protection of the environment remains to be at the core of this tourism effort so that people will actually have something to enjoy.

All these–and perhaps more–are why Pamana and the rest of the Philippine Eagles matter to the community. As the eagles soar, pride and a sense of awareness for the environment is reignited among all of us. (Jesse Pizarro Boga / MindaNews)