Stronger international effort needed to save Philippine Eagle – PEF
BUTUAN CITY—The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) has pushed for increased international cooperation in captive breeding of the critically endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) to strengthen the conservation effort for the world’s rarest raptor.
“The lessons of the pandemic should give us insight for the need to secure our eagle species. That’s why we need to loan them to have a genetic bank outside the Philippines in case our local population of eagles get decimated,” said PEF executive director Dennis Salvador.
He made the call amid the recent death from an infection of male eagle “Geothermica” while on breeding loan in Singapore’s Mandai Wildlife Reserve.
Fondly called “Geo,” the raptor was being paired with female eagle “Sambisig” or “Sam.” The pair was brought to Singapore in 2019, based on an agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Mandai.
They were the first breeding pair of Philippine Eagles to be sent outside the country as part of a recovery plan in case the captive-breeding population in PEF’s Davao facility would be hit by a disease like bird flu.‘Insurance’Loaning the eagles to a facility in another country, according to Salvador, “is a much-needed insurance and we hope that there will be other areas where our eagles can be kept out of harm’s way.”
“The avian bird flu has the potential to wipe out entire populations,” he cautioned.
“What happened to [Geo] was very unfortunate, but these things happen in any institution, in any species. What we are trying to do and I am sure this is also what Mandai Wildlife Reserve did, is really to take care of the eagles. In fact, when they noticed that Geo refused to eat, they did everything they could to bring him back,” Salvador said.
“The veterinarian crew of Mandai and their animal hospital [are] really top notch; one of the best in the world,” he added.
PEF, in a statement, said it was deeply saddened by Geothermica’s passing, “but rest assured that we will not lose heart in our mission to foster international cooperation to save this global jewel.”
Mandai said that with Geo gone, the reserve’s staff were focusing their attention on Sam, making sure she would adjust well without Geo.
Philippine Eagles are very hard to pair, Salvador said. “We selected Geo and Sam because they showed promising behaviors in our care. They showed signs of possible compatibility as they were not aggressive to each other,” he explained.
Mandai veterinarians noted that prior to his illness, Geo “began displaying behaviors indicating interest to mate with Sambisig.”
“We are not yet sure of the next step; that would be the decision of the Philippine government. But talks will be underway soon regarding the program. I want to underscore that this incident should not [deter] us [from continuing] to loan eagles to other reputable institutions because we really need to secure the species. We only have 392 pairs left,” Salvador said.
Geo was born on Jan. 7, 2004, at the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos, Davao City. His care had been supported by the Energy Development Corp.