Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saving eagles, protecting forests

by Jonathan L. Mayuga - June 25, 2016 [ ]

AS part of its ongoing conservation program, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) continues to monitor and record sightings of the Philippine Eagle.

“Sightings of the eagle increase as we expand the areas we are monitoring. We would like to think that the population, too, is increasing, because of the increase in reported sightings as we expand our coverage,” said DENR-BMB Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim. Hunting for food and trophy, and the fragmentation of natural forest, she said, remain as the biggest threats to all wildlife.

“If forested areas are disturbed by human activities, such as agriculture or mining, the eagles are forced to leave and find other areas where they can find food. As they fly in other areas to find a suitable habitat, they are exposed to risks of being shot by hunters or captured,” she said.

From 2010 to 2015, the DENR has recorded sightings of Philippine Eagle, including nests in various parts of Mindanao, Luzon and the Visayas, particularly in Samar and Leyte. From 2010 to 2013, there were only 29 recorded sightings but in 2014 sightings of the Philippine eagle increased to 40. In 2015 the DENR-BMB recorded a total of 47 sightings. The reports came from the DENR’s partners, such as the Haribon Foundation and Regional Eagle Watch Teams, which are tasked to monitor and record sightings of the Philippine Eagle.

The bulk of the Philippine Eagle population, Lim said, is in Mindanao, particularly in Northern Mindanao, where increased sightings of the rare eagle, including nests outside declared protected areas, had been recently observed.

Captive breeding

Besides breeding in the wild, protecting the eagles and their nests, efforts to conserve the Philippine Eagle are also anchored on a captive-breeding program.

The Philippines boast of a successful captive-breeding program. The Philippine Eagle Foundation, a not-for-profit nongovernmental organization, in partnership with the DENR, had produced a total of 27 eagles bred in captivity since 1991.

The eggs were produced either through natural pairing or cooperative artificial insemination. Three of the eagles have been successfully released into the wild. However, the DENR’s record showed that two of them had died, while another was recaptured.
“Kabayan,” the first eagle bred in captivity that was released into the wild on April 22, 2004 at the Philippine National Oil Geothermal Reservation within the Mount Apo National Park in Kidapawan City, accidentally died of electrocution on January 8, 2005.”

Another eagle, “Hineleban” was released on October 29, 2009, at the Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Sumilao, Bukidnon. It was believed to have been killed on November 30, 2009, after the radio transmitter stopped transmitting a signal.

What is believed to be the remains of the eagle were discovered on January 15, 2010, in Barangay Lupiagan in Bukidnon.

The third eagle, Chick No. 23, was recaptured and is undergoing rehabilitation. Kikko Kalabud, communication officer of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), said the group is currently monitoring two eagles that the foundation released—one in Bukidnon and the other one in Apayao. So far, he said, the eagles are doing well. Five of the eagles released into the wild were killed by hunters, Kalabud said.

Currently, the PEF has in its custody a total of 35 eagles, including those that were bred in captivity. Only seven eagles are exhibited at the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City for educational purposes. “The rest are kept in enclosures in isolation to minimize human interaction,” he said.

A continuing program

Lim said the DENR-BMB’s information, education and communication campaign is a continuing program.

The celebration of the Philippine Eagle Week, she said, highlights the importance of saving the Philippine Eagle, which also means saving the forest from destruction. The DENR, Lim said, is expanding its partnership with various institutions.

The DENR-BMB kicked off the celebration of the Philippine Eagle Week from June 4 to 10 with a partnership with the Enchanted Kingdom, which will soon highlight the Philippine Eagle in one of its many attractions.

The partnership, Lim said, aims to further strengthen public awareness on the significant role of the Philippine Eagle in the forests, its importance as a national symbol, and the unique heritage the future generations must enjoy and help protect. The DENR-BMB is also pushing for its proposed adopt-a-wildlife scheme. “Right now, we are hoping to partner with the Energy Development Corp. for the adoption of the Philippine Eagle,” she said.

Conservation efforts to prevent the Philippine Eagle from being extinct face the same old problems.

While there are laws that impose severe punishment for violators of environmental laws, the poor enforcement of these laws is failing to stop the rapid loss of biodiversity.

The massive destruction of ecosystems, illegal-wildlife trade and in the case of the Philippine Eagle—hunting is still strongly felt.

The killing of a Philippine Eagle is punishable by imprisonment of between six and 12 years, and/or a fine ranging from P100,000 to P1 million, as stipulated in Republic Act 9147, or the wildlife protection and conservation law.

Many of those who commit the crime, however, remain unpunished, as cases remain unsolved.

Lim said there is really a need to teach every Filipino the real value of the country’s rich biodiversity, particularly its unique wildlife, like the Philippine Eagle, before it is too late. After all, Lim said, biodiversity loss is everybody’s loss.


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