Wildlife sanctuary status eyed for Sarangani forest where eagle was rescued

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 25 July) – The provincial government of Sarangani is pushing for the declaration as a wildlife sanctuary of a critical forest area where a juvenile Philippine Eagle was rescued earlier this year.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon has endorsed a proposal for such declaration over a stretch of a forest area in the municipalities of Maitum and Kiamba to properly protect the habitat of the Philippine Eagle and other sighted endangered wildlife species in the area.

The move was earlier proposed by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in a provincial management committee meeting.

“We need to do it already. There needs to be action doing it… declaring a watershed also and wildlife area,” Solon said in a statement.

Local government personnel rescued on Jan. 2 a juvenile Philippine Eagle at a portion of Barangay Batian in Maitum town.

The eagle, which was found “severely dehydrated, overly thin and with an embedded pellet from a wound that had healed,” was rushed to the Philippine Eagle Center (PEF) in Davao City for rehabilitation.

The rehabilitated eagle, named as Sarangani Pride, was eventually freed on Jan. 31 in the border of barangays Upo and Tuanadatu in Maitum.

PEF experts have been monitoring the movements of the eagle through a harnessed solar-powered Global Positioning System-Global System for Mobile Communications or GPS-GSM transmitter.

The governor said the presence of Sarangani Pride shows the area is “hundred percent an eagle sanctuary and should be protected.”

According to the PEF, the presence of the Philippine Eagle in Maitum “basically shows that this forest is still pristine and healthy and is worth conserving.”

The forest area in Barangay Batian is within the Mt. Busa Complex (Area: 114,144 hectares), which was declared as a key biodiversity area (KBA 116) and an important bird area (IBA PH0105) in 2001.

It is the habitat of critically endangered, threatened, vulnerable and rare bird species and connects several conservation priorities.

Sarangani’s Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC) had reported sightings of tarsier, wild deer, pigs, monkeys, bats, civets and endangered species of birds at the foot of Mt. Busa.

But Mt. Busa, which straddles the towns of Maitum, Kiamba and Maasim, is threatened by land conversion (to farmland), kaingin (slash-and-burn), wildlife hunting, illegal logging and mining, the ECPC said. (MindaNews)