PEF confirms family of Philippine Eagles seen in Davao Oriental town

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 December) – The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) has confirmed that a family of Philippine Eagles, a critically endangered speices, was recently seen in the forest of Lupon, Davao Oriental.

“Yes, they are Philippine Eagles,” PEF’s Dr. Jayson Ibanez, Director of Research and Conservation, said.

Three Philippine Eagles, two of them adults and one juvenile, were seen by a team conducting an assessment of potential tourism sites in Lupon from December 7 to 10, the Provincial Information Office (PIO) of Davao Oriental reported on December 11.

It said Eden Jhan Licayan, PIO photographer, took photos and some video footage of the rare sightings, which were sent to Ibanez.

Juvenile Philippine Eagle perced on a branch of a tree in the forest of Lupon, Davao Oriental. Inset is the pair believed to be the young eagle’s parents. Photo by EDEN JHAN LICAYAN / Provincial Information Office, Davao Oriental

“Licayan said he first spotted a young Philippine Eagle perched on a tree near its nest while emitting a powerful call. The following day, Licayan and his team were surprised to spot two more eagles flying over the forest canopy, much bigger than the first one they saw,” the PIO press release said.

The report said Ibanez confirmed the three birds were Philippine Eagles “and based on the general appearance and nature of its feathers, the bird at perch is a juvenile (around one-year-old) Philippine Eagle.”

“The presence of a juvenile means there are eagle parents, and the photos of two flying eagles are possibly the eagle couple,” Ibanez was quoted as saying.

According to the PEF website, the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi)  is considered one of the largest and most powerful among forest raptors. It is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered,” with an estimated number of only 400 pairs left in the wild.Ibanez recommended an expedition next year to further document the eagle pair and their young.

Ibanez noted that where the photos of the eagles were taken is  the eagle family is within the Mount Kampalili – Puting Bato Key Biodiversity Area of Davao Oriental, which is one of the few large habitats of Philippine Eagles in Mindanao.

Philippine Eagle sighted in Lupon, Davao Oriental. Photo by EDEN JHAN LICAYAN, Provincial Information Office, Davao Oriental

Ibanez told MindaNews on Saturday that Davao Oriental is home to several pairs of Philippine Eagles.

“So far we have seven pairs of eagles across the province” and the new pair from Lupon, he said, is  the eighth.

With eight pairs, Davao Oriental has at least 16 adult Philippine Eagles in its forests.Ibanez said the province still has a huge forest cover. “Malaki pa (It’s still huge) actually, he said.

“Assuming that each pair breeds every two years, they produce one young per pair per two years,” he told MindaNews.

According to the PEF’s website, the Phiippine Eagle pair “needs about 4,000 to 11,000 hectares of forest land to thrive in the wild, depending on the number prey items in the area.”

Juvenile Philippine Eagle seen perched on the branch of a tree in Lupon, Davao Oriental. The Philippine Eagle Foundation estimates the bird to be a year old. Photo by EDEN JHAN LICAYAN, Provincial Information Office, Davao Oriental

Ibanez said the Mt. Kampalili Rangeshared with Compostela Valley province, is about 170,000 hectares while the Mt. Agtuuganon-Pasian Range, also shared with Compostela Valley, is around 85,000 hectares.

On July 30, a Mandaya farmer in Caraga town in Davao Oriental trapped a Philippine Eagle that  reportedly hunted all of the farmer’s four piglets  A PEF team went to the site to fetch the bird and brought ti to the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos, Calinan, Davao City.

Named Mal’lambugok, the bird was found to have suffered psychological trauma and refused to eat for five days but was nursed back to health. On September 26, the bird was released back to the wild in Caraga after Mandaya forest guards prayed to the forest spirits for the bird’s health and safety.

This pair of Philippine Eagles seen in Lupon, Davao Oriental, is the 8th eagle pair across the province of Davao Oriental, according to the Philippine Eagle Foundation. Photo by EDEN JHAN LICAYAN, Provincial Information Office, Davao Oriental

The PIO report on December 11 said the Philippine Eagle Foundation hopes that the local government together with the concerned stakeholders will work together to heighten the locals’ awareness on the preservation of the health of the forests and the conservation of these majestic eagles.

It said Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang assured that the provincial government and the local government of Lupon will implement programs to ensure the Philippine Ealges are protected.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)