DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 March)—At least six Philippine eagles will be transferred next month to the new Philippine Eagle Conservation Breeding Sanctuary (PECBS) of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Barangay Eden, Toril.
Andi Baldonado, PEF development program manager, told MindaNews on Wednesday that that new location has a total area of 13 hectares, of which only five hectares have been allotted for the core facility but most of it will serve as a buffer zone as an additional layer of biosecurity to ensure the safety of the raptors.
She said that preparations for the new site are currently ongoing.
“The set-up of enclosures is difficult to complete due to the difficulty of hauling the materials for the enclosures and the keepers’ bunkhouse to the remote, elevated, and steep area of the site,” she said.
The foundation will keep the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) in Barangay Malagos as a conservation education site that will remain open to guests who can still view some eagles, particularly those that are retired from breeding.
She said the foundation plans to undertake the transfer of the entire breeding stock in five to six phases beginning next month but added that timeline as to its completion would depend on “the funds that we have and the improvement of the access road to make hauling quicker.”
As of Jan 2023, the foundation has 32 eagles in the PEC.
In a briefer emailed on Wednesday, the foundation said that the threats of Avian flu and changing landscape around the PEC in Malagos necessitated the transfer to PECBS.
“The PECBS will exclusively operate as a breeding facility for the Philippine eagles. It will not be open to the public for strict implementation of biosecurity measures,” it said.
It said that a single case of infection of Avian Influenza (HPAI), Type A (H5N1) or bird flu in the facility “can wipe out the only captive breeding stock of the species in the world.”
The PEF was alarmed by the outbreak of H5N1 in Magsaysay town, Davao del Sur, located about 90 km southwest of the PEC, in March 2022.
“That brings the threat right at our doorstep and puts all 32 eagles in the PEC at risk of being exterminated. That’s losing 5% of the total estimated global population of endangered birds,” it said.
It added that the “game and poultry farms mushrooming around the PEC increases the risk of exposure to highly pathogenic diseases such as Avian Flu.”
“Philippine eagle copulation activities are extremely delicate. The slightest disturbance could cause them to immediately stop and fixate on the source of the disturbance. Activities in adjacent farm lots are disruptive to our Philippine eagle pairs’ breeding activities,” it said.
According to PEF, the objectives of the transfer are to “isolate all of our captive-breeding stocks away from potential sources of diseases and environmental pollutants” and to “explore and experiment on other breeding and rearing techniques to bolster future reintroduction and/or restocking trials, including experimental chick-rearing by natural eagle pairs
“Without the productivity of our natural pairs in breeding, we lose the potential hatchlings that could be released into the wild,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)