Philippine eagles get protection from high voltage bare wires

The long and broad wings of Philippine Eagles are adaptations to soaring and gliding flights. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jayson Ibañez

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 April) – In a bid to prevent the electrocution of the critically endangered Philippine eagle and other bird species, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) has started the insulation of a 1.5-kilometer stretch of electric line at Mount Sinaka in North Cotabato as part of efforts to conserve the country’s national bird.

Dr. Jayson Ibañez, PEF director for research and conservation, said in a statement the power lines of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative Inc. (COTELCO) required retrofitting to avoid repeating an incident that killed a juvenile Philippine eagle in Barangay Tumanding in Arakan town in 2018.

A necropsy report noted some burn marks on the raptor while its heart and surrounding vessels ruptured as a result of electrocution after it landed on a nearby non-insulated power line of COTELCO.

Based on reviews of photographs by electrical engineer Floro Baguec, Jr., of the Apayao Province Engineering Office, he explained that the power pole where the bird landed held a bare, non-insulated “secondary line” with 220 volts of electrical power. The bird apparently came in contact with the two naked wires simultaneously, and that the full voltage passing through its body caused its death.

It was the second eagle death case for accidental electrocution from bare wires in the country.

The first was a captive-bred bird named “Kabayan” that was released at Mount Apo in 2004.

Ibañez said Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network (ARRCN) of Japan funded the first segment of the wire insulation with the support of Japan-based beverage firm Suntory, which manages the Suntory Fund for Bird Conservation.

The installation of insulated wires at Sitio Bagtok in Barangay Tumanding, the first of the 4.5-kilometer retrofitting project, started last month and will be completed by June this year in time for the celebration of Philippine Eagle Day in homage to Arakan’s “bird jewel” declaration, he said.

In 2021, the local government of Arakan passed the ordinance “Declaring the Philippine eagle as the flagship species (bird jewel) of the Municipality of Arakan and providing for its protection and conservation and imposing penalties for violations thereof and appropriating funds therefor.”

He said the local legislation “sets the stage for more proactive measures to secure at least two Philippine eagle families within Arakan town, including piloting a power line retrofitting project.”

Ibañez said the foundation worked with the local government and communities within Mount Sinaka to conserve a pair of Philippine eagles, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed as a “critically endangered” species.

With only less than 2,000 hectares of forest cover, Ibañez stressed that Mount Sinaka is considered as the smallest nesting habitat of the Philippine eagles.

PEF executive director Dennis Salvador said they have been helping empower the local communities to become “responsible neighbors to the eagles through education, forest protection and restoration projects, and livelihood support” since the foundation confirmed Mount Sinaka as an eagle nesting site in 1995.

Ibañez said that “COTELCO expressed that it wants to modify and insulate their power lines at Mount Sinaka to protect the eagles.”

Karol Mei Colambot, COTELCO head of promotions, said it is one with PEF in protecting the national bird at Mount Sinaka. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)