DENR to declare Sarangani forest as a ‘critical habitat’ due to Philippine eagle sightings

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 16 November) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is preparing to declare Dakeol Forest in Maitum, Sarangani as a critical habitat as more endangered Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) have been sighted in its environs, officials said.

Edgar Calderon, team leader and park maintenance foreman of the DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office based in Kiamba, Sarangani (CENRO Kiamba), said a juvenile Philippine eagle was recently spotted in Maitum’s Sitio Angko in Barangay Batian, which is part of Dakeol Forest.

Dakeol has been earlier assessed as a critical habitat.

Last June, a team from CENRO Kiamba, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Maitum local government unit (LGU) scoured Dakeol Forest to monitor the nesting sites of Philippines eagle there.

Personnel of CENRO-Kiamba went back early this month and were greeted by the sight of a juvenile eagle in the southern part of Dakeol Forest, Calderon said.

According to the virtual assessment of PEF, the juvenile raptor is 10 to 12 months old and believed to be the offspring of Sarangani Pride.

In January 2017, the Maitum LGU turned over to the PEF an eagle that was found by a local resident in Dakeol Forest. The rescued eagle, which was rushed to the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City, was severely dehydrated, overly thin and with an embedded pellet from a wound that had healed.

She was later named Sarangani Pride, and being monitored through a harnessed solar-powered Global Positioning System-Global System for Mobile Communications or GPS-GSM transmitter.

“As advised by PEF, the new juvenile eagle (we found) should be put with a tracking device to monitor its route. This will also be the means to locate the rest of the eagle in the said forest,” Calderon said.

The team also observed two more Philippines eagles in a distant site during the recent visit to the forest, he added.

Dakeol Forest is also home to another species of endemic raptor, the Philippine serpent eagles, Calderon said.

Maitum Mayor Alexander Bryan Reganit cited the need to protect the town’s forests, as they serve as home not only to the Philippine eagle but to other wildlife elements as well.

“We are happy to know that the rare Philippine eagle lives in our forests. We ought to protect endangered species for our future generations,” Reganit said earlier.

Weighing as much as eight kilograms, the Philippine eagle is considered the top predator of the country’s tropical rainforest.

The eagle “plays an important role in keeping the ecosystem in balance and provides an umbrella of protection to all other life forms in its territory,” Jayson Ibañez, PEF research and conservation director, explained earlier.

Only an estimated 400 pairs of Philippine eagles remain in the wild, landing the raptor on the “critically endangered” list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.