The Philippine eagle used to inhabit every island in the country with as many as 1,900 pairs back in 1910. It was not until its life was threatened by several factors that saw the decline of its population to only more or less, 400 pairs.
Known as the largest and most powerful birds of prey, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) can live up to 30 to 60 years in captivity, but could be less when left in the wild. They have one of the broadest wingspan in the world at seven feet.
The country’s national bird is monogamous and often mates for life. They live in montane forests, particularly in Leyte, Luzon, Samar, and majority of them in Mindanao.
However, catching sight of these magnificent birds of prey becomes harder and harder these days as their number continue to dwindle.
Threatened to the brink of extinction
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the Philippine eagle as a threatened species back in 1988. After just six years, the animal becomes critically endangered and continues to decrease every year.
“This long-lived species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small population, as a result of extremely rapid declines in the past three generations (56 years), owing to extensive deforestation,” IUCN justified in its website.
Deforestation serves as its kryptonite. The forest is their home, where they get food, reproduce and raise their offspring. But, despite the country’s strict laws in the protection of the animal, massive logging and irresponsible use of resources destroys their homes.
With their homes destroyed, Philippine eagles go farther from their habitats in search for preys to hunt. This leads them to human settlements resulting to a deadly conflict with humans. Eagles were often shot and killed. “At least one Philippine eagle is killed every year because of shooting,” according to the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s (PEF) website.
Most recently, another female Philippine eagle was rescued last month in the waters of Sarangani Bay while it was flying towards Sitio Dampilan, Barangay Lumatil in Maasim, Sarangani province. According to reports, it fell into the water after taking off from a boat.
The rescue prompted on the health of the endangered bird’s habitat once again in the province and several wildlife organizations hopes for the declaration of Mt. Busa as a protected landscape.
Efforts for Conservation
PEF leads in the conservation of the Philippine eagle through science-based programs and people-oriented strategies.
The organization works with indigenous forest guards and local farms to patrol, and restore the forests where Philippine Eagles live. They plant trees to revive barren lands, so that the eagles could return and live a thriving life in a healthy environment.
But, PEF Research and Conservation director Jayson C. Ibanez says its more than the protection of forests, it is about engaging the public to take part in the conservation of the Philippine eagle and continuously raise awareness on conserving wildlife.
Just like any other species, the Philippine eagle plays a crucial role in keeping balance in the ecosystem. They regulate the population of other species and protect other life forms in their territory, according to PEF.
“Losing the species to extinction would also mean the world losing a precious biological heritage.”