TWENTY-TWO years ago on January 15, the wildlife conservation community worldwide was astir, for in a quiet conservation center in faraway Davao City, the first ever captive-bred raptor was successfully hatched.
Twenty-two years hence, the Philippine Eagle center in Malagos, Calinan, scheduled a whole day of interaction with students to drive in the importance of nature conservation.
Twenty-two years hence, Philippine eagle Pagasa, the first Philippine eagle hatched in captivity remains in captivity.
“Perhaps only that 22 years after Pagasa’s birth, we continue to struggle with the key threats to our national bird’s survival,” Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) executive director Dennis Joseph I. Salvador said when asked what his reflections are with regards Pagasa’s birthday.
As it is, the conservation efforts of the PEF have come a long way as it was already ale to hatch 25 captive bred eagles.
It’s in the wilderness, now dominated by man, where the main challenge is being fought.
“Shooting and habitat loss persist despite broad public awareness,” Salvador said. “Adding to these are the Damocles sword of chance events such as calamities and diseases like H5N1 now H7N9.”
Pagasa, having been in captivity since he hatched, can live up to 40 years old. Those in the wild have very little chance of living an adult life free from hazards.
Many are being shot.
The latest, rescued eagle Minalwang who was released back to the wild on Mt. Balatukan in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental was found dead no October 11, 2013, just barely two months after its release in August 2013.
The bird was not the first that died soon when released back to the wild after rescue and rehabilition at the center.
The legs of eagle Kagsabua released on Mt. Kitanglad Natural Park in Sumilao, Bukidnon, was found buried beside a river in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon four months later in 2008.
Hagpa released in June 2010 was shot dead four months later.
Also believed killed is Hineleban, who was released in Mt. Kitanglad in October 2009, after a male eagle carcass was found in Barangay Lupiagan in Bukidnon, Bukidnon on January 15, 2010.
Pagasa, or Hope because his hatching gave hope to the conservation movement, is the offspring of Diola, a female from Calinan, Davao City, and Junior, a male from Agusan. His surrogate mate partner at the center is Eddie Juntilla.
He has sired his first chick, which hatched on February 9 last year.
The chick Mabuhay was bred through cooperation insemination of female eagle Kalinawan (Peace), a 29-year-old eagle rescued from Zamboanga del Sur, and Pagasa.
Pagasa’s hatchday cam complete with a hatchday cake.
Students, parents, teachers, and other guests joined the celebration that started with a 9 a.m. mass last Wednesday.
The day’s activities included an educational presentation about the importance of these raptors to the environment and a keeper talk featuring other bird species found at the Center. Members of Ecoteneo, an environmental awareness organization of the Ateneo de Davao University, participated in the activities prepared by the staff of the Foundation. The celebration culminated with the blowing of the hatchday cake for Pagasa.
Primarily a forest raptor, Philippine eagles build their nest on old growth trees between 700 to 1,200 meters above sea level (masl). The PEF observed that most nests they have discovered and are monitoring are on stepp, forested valleys or ravines.
First known as monkey-eating eagle because monkeys are among its food, Philippine eagles actually are opportunistic hunters, meaning they’d swoop and eat on any animals they spot, although they prefer those that dwell on trees.
It is monogamous, meaning it only pairs up with one other eagle for life. A pair only nests once every two years with the females laying only one egg at a time. A chick stays in a nest for around five and a half months before it will fly out. But care by its parents can take as long as 17 months, the PEF said.
This alone shows the difficulties faced by eagles in the wild for as long as the forests are steadily being denuded.
“Pagasa reminds us to work harder at addressing these issues neither as an organization nor a group of organizations but together as a people,” Salvador said.