Philippine eagle released in virgin forest of Sarangani

Inquirer Libre - Davao - - PANGUNAHING PAHINA - By Serafin Ramos Jr. Contributor

MAITUM, Sarangani – A rehabilitated juvenile Philippine eagle was freed to its habitat barely a month after being found and captured severely dehydrated, malnourished and with an imbedded pellet.

The bird was “hard-released” or coaxed to jump out of its opened transport kennel so that it could fly off by itself, said Beth Ramos, municipal information officer-designate. After 15 minutes, the eaglet flew and landed on a tree a few hundred meters away.

It was normal for a newly-released bird to stay at a tree for a while to fix its feathers and do some muscle-flexing.

A team of biologists stayed behind to observe the bird for 10 days depending on the progress of the bird’s situation.

Atty. Emma Nebran, executive director of the Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC), said the forest where the eaglet was released is part of Mt. Busa, a key biodiversity area located in the western part of Sarangani Province.

“Mt. Busa is our last frontier,” Nebran said. “That is the remaining forest we have here in Sarangani province and we are interested to protect this one, to conserve and also preserve the biodiversity that we have here.”

Mt. Busa consists of 114,000 hectares covering the municipalities of Kiamba, Maitum and part of Maasim.

However, Mt. Busa is threatened by land conversion (to farmland), kaingin (slash-andburn), wildlife hunting, illegal logging and mining, according to the ECPC.

Mayor Alexander Bryan Reganit said his municipality will declare barangays Batian and Tuanadatu as protected area.

“Kaming taga Maitum masayang masaya kasi dito namin nakikita na virgin forest pa ang aming kabundokan,” Reganit said. “Ngayon lang po kami nakahuli ng Philippine eagle (sa Maitum).”

Rosalito Labi of Sitio Angko, Barangay Batian said: “Now we know how important the Philippine eagle is. We do not cut trees here. We only plant banana, coffee, cacao and coconut. Let us protect our environment. We are mad if the forest is destroyed. Our livelihood comes from the forest.”

The eaglet, named Sarangani Pride by Senator Manny Pacquiao, was freed in Sitio Lahac in the border of Barangays Upo and Tuanadatu.

From Sitio Lahac, the release team walked for a hundred meters towards a ridge overlooking Sitio Angko, Barangay Batian. The release was done by Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) caretakers and veterinarian.

“Our staff will be monitoring this eagle post-release via satellite and radio transmitter. We want to make sure that this eaglet will be accepted back by its parents and fed until it fully fledges,” said Dennis Salvador, Philippine Eagle Center executive director.

“The role of the communities here is to just not touch the eagle and inform their neighbors and our biologists whenever they see it flying nearby, primarily to protect it themselves,” Salvador said.

The role of local government units (LGU) is important in terms of reinforcing information campaign and “making sure that nothing illegal is done and ensure that the law on wildlife act and relevant ordinances are enforced,” Salvador added.

He pointed out the presence of the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the national bird, in the forest of Maitum “basically shows that this forest is still pristine and healthy and is worth conserving.”

Salvador said other than Maitum and Sarangani, there are very few provinces across the country that have good forest cover and harbor eagle populations – Davao Oriental, Davao City, Bukidnon, Zamboanga, and some parts of Lanao.

“But very few of these populations are spread across the country. They are found only in four of the major island groups that include Mindanao, Samar, Leyte and Luzon. We estimate that there are only about 400 pairs left in the wild,” Salvador said.

The Maitum eaglet is a male. It was found in Barangay Batian on January 2 then brought to the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City. X-Ray showed an embedded pellet in its left groin area. A PEC veterinarian inspected the possible entry point of the bullet but “wala namang entry wound so ibig sabihin it is an old wound na nag heal na. Normally hindi na namin ginagalaw kung hindi naman fatal.”

The eaglet was dehydrated and malnourished, and “had to be brought back into prime condition.”

SERAFIN RAMOS JR.

REHABILITATED Philippine eaglet Sarangani Pride soars over Maitum, Sarangani.

SERAFIN RAMOS JR.

SARANGANI Pride: Christened by Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

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