The reason for being of the Philippine Eagle Foundation

The Philippine Eagle was first discovered by English explorer John Whitehead in 1896. He named it Pitchecophaga jefferyi after his father, Jeffrey Whitehead, who financed his explorations.

An article in Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay Magazine traced the efforts to save the Philippine Eagle more than five decades ago to Jesus A. Alvarez, then director of Parks and Wildlife Office and Dioscoro S. Rabor, ornithologist, zoologist, and conservationist who made a call to save the wild bird when they noticed the dwindling numbers due to hunting and loss of natural habitat.

On Nov. 9, 1970, Republic Act 6147 was passed declaring the pithecophaga jefferyi commonly known as monkey-eating eagle as a protected bird in the Philippines. It was declared a national bird by President Fidel Ramos on July 4, 1995

The Philippine Eagle was first called the monkey-eating eagle because it was observed that the birds preyed on monkeys. It was later found out that the eagles also feasts on other animals likesnakes, bats, pigs, flying rodents, among others.

At the PEC, animal keepers feed live rabbits to sustain the diet of the Eagles in captivity .Often misunderstood as the bad guys, predators like the Philippine Eagle that eats other animals to survive, perform a role in making the prey population healthier and stronger.

On June 4, 2019, two Philippine Eagles -Sambisig, a 17-year old female and Geothermica, Sambisig,a 15-year-old male left for Singapore and will live Jurong Bird Park for 10 years forcaptive breeding under a Wildlife Loan Agreement(WLA) between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Wildlife Reserves.

The WLA is a conservation effort in case health epidemics like avian flu or disasters hit the eagle’s habitat.

Sambisig’s parents are Sam and Diamante.

Sinag, which means ‘sun rays’ in Tagalog, is the 26th eagle bred in captivity and has beenadopted by the Philippine Airlines.

While Sinag is three-years-old, his’her sexis not yet known due to the late maturity of the Philippine Eagles.

When the eagles reachfive to seven years of age, they are weighed to find out their sex.

“For the females, they are actually bigger. They can weigh up to eight kilograms. The males weigh around six kilograms,” said Viojan

“Philippine Eagles don’t have any difference between the male and the female in terms of color, behavior, and even their nesting behavior,” Viojan further said.

Matatag (left) and Mayumi (right) are in the early stage of engagement. They are in a pairing dome - near each other but separated by a barrier to allow them to know each other well without hurting each other.

Philippine Eagles normally find a mate when they reach eight to twelve years old. Like human beings, eagles go through courtship before they get engaged.

“During courtship, I observed that females are more aggressive. If she shows aggression, like opening up her wings, that means she’s angry. The male would naturally move away,” said Viojan.

Matatag and Mayumi have already passed the courtship stage. Engagement period usually takes from six months to two years.

Viojan said Matatag used to be paired with another female eagle but they didn’t go beyond the courtship stage.

Viojan said as Matatag and Mayumi get closer, the barrier will be opened a bit.

Pag-asa,(not in this photo) 27-years-old, is a special kind. Not only is he the first Philippine Eagle born through artificial insemination in 1992, he has also imprinted on a human keeper as his mate.

“If imprinted, he will treat the person he is used to seeing as his mother or mate. In the case of Pag-Asa, because he is already an adult, he treats his adult keeper as his mate,” said Viojan.

Pag-asa will get stressed if he is kept away from his keeper-mate.

Viojan shares an instance where the keeper forgot to lock the gate to Pag-asa’s cage, “Usually, with that, they try to fly [away], but with the other cases, they won’t try to run away because they know their mate is here.”

While the staff have tried to pair Pag-asa with an eagle, he did not accept others as his mate.

Fighter is a victim of shooting. His left-wing bone was shattered and had to be amputated. Only one fourth of it now is left. He was brought to the Center in 2011 following the incident.

Fighter cannot anymore be released like other captive-breds due to his inability to fly and defective balance.

These inabilities are also the reason why Fighter lives in a smaller cage compared to the other eagles, since he could fall and get hurt if he tries to fly in higher cages.

“Balance is a hurdle, for him, so a smaller cage would be better so there is a smaller risk for him to fall from a higher place,” said Viojan.

To compensate, he has guide logs to hop on and then go down.

What happened to Fighter underscores the risks of freedom for the captive-bred eagles.

In January 2005, Kabayan, the first captive-bred eagle released to the wild in Asia, died from electrocution at Mount Apo Natural Park nine months after he was released.

PEF investigators surmised he may have perched on an electric post and may have been electrocuted.

On Aug. 16, 2015, three-year old Pamana, was found dead at Mt. Hamiguitan Range in San Isidro, Davao Oriental province found with a 5-mm bullet hole on her right chest.

Man is considered the number one threat to the Philippine Eagle.

Hunting has claimed the lives of some eagles.

Development like converting forest lands to other uses leads to deforestation and loss of the eagles natural habitat

The Philippine Eagle: Endangered but soaring

The Philippine Eagle (scientific name: Pithecophaga jefferyi ) symbolizes the grit and strength of the Filipino people amidst adversity.

In celebration of the Philippine Eagle Week, June 4 to 10, 12 journalists visited The Philippine Eagle Center, an 8.4-hectare sanctuary of over 30 eagles at the foot of Mt. Apo in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City. The visit was organized by the Philippine Network of Environment Journalists and VERA Files supported by Internews' Earth Journalism Network.

The Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) is managed by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Philippine Eagle.

Lace Viojan, an education officer of the PEF, was on hand to give an educational tour of the place on a rainy afternoon.

Although a newbie in PEF, Viojan, an ecologist, has worked in Samar and Leyte as a volunteer rescuing eagles.

The PEC shelters not only the critically endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), but also other predatory birds, such as the Philippine Serpent Eagle (Spilornis holospilus) and the White Breasted Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).

As a predator, an eagle preys on the weak and eats other animals to survive. Viojan said predators are not necessarily “bad guys” as portrayed in the movies. Predation is a mechanism that drives good genetic diversity within the prey population. Predators do the job of culling out the weak or injured, she said.

The PEC counts 400 pairs of Philippine Eagles left in the country, found only on the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao.

In the following slides, meet Sinag, Fighter, Sam, Diamante and others in the Philippine Eagle Center.


Organized by the Philippine Network of Environment Journalists and VERA Files supported by Internews' Earth Journalism Network, here are other stories produced by journalists who joined the trip:

Edge Davao: Environment: Philippine Eagles lost in vanishing forests

Inquirer: Philippine Eagle pair lands in Singapore

Mindanews: 2 Philippine Eagles arrive in Singapore

Mindanews: Philippine Eagles adapting well to new home in Singapore

Mongabay: For the Philippine eagle, a shotat survival means going abroad

Sun Star Davao: PH Eagles land in Singapore PH Eagles land in Singapore

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