Philippine eagle repopulation in Leyte forests starts

Philippine eagle repopulation in Leyte forests starts

PH eagle repopulationin Leyte forests starts

INTO THE WILD Personnel of the Philippine Eagle Foundation bring eagles “Uswag” and “Carlito” to their temporary holding cage at the edge of a forest in Burauen, Leyte, where they will be released to the wild later this month. —Joselle R. Badilla

BURAUEN, LEYTE, Philippines — Conservationists are beginning to implement an ambitious plan to repopulate Leyte province with the national bird, as part of the larger effort to increase the population of the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) in the wild.

On Tuesday, a pair of raptors [were] “translocated” here from Davao City. The eagles were flown to Tacloban City via a C295 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force’s Tactical Operations Wing Eastern Mindanao, after being authorized by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

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Throughout the 50-minute flight, the eagles were cuddled by two biologists from the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).

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From Tacloban, the eagles, which were hooded, traveled again for two hours to Barangay Kagbana, then another 30-minute walk toward the edge of the forests of the Marabong watershed within the Anonang Lobi Range, a key biodiversity area here.

They were each placed inside a cage to be acclimatized, in preparation for their scheduled release on June 28.

According to Dr. Jayson Ibañez, PEF director for operations, the eagles—3-year-old “Uswag” and 6-year-old “Carlito”—will hopefully pioneer the rebirth of the eagle population in Leyte once reintroduced into the wild.

“They will seed the new population in Leyte. They are surplus birds that we need to translocate, immature eagles that don’t have territory,” Ibañez told the Inquirer.

“Surplus birds hang out within the boundaries of occupied eagle territories. They wait until an adult pair die[s] and leave their territory vacant,” he explained.

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‘Yolanda’ impact

PEF has targeted bringing and releasing a total of 18 raptors in Leyte in the next five years, mostly coming from Mindanao, although some could come from nearby Samar province.

Kagbana villagers recalled first seeing an eagle pair in 2007, the last in 2012, just before Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) struck. A lonesome raptor was sighted in 2017.

The villagers believed that the raptor pair could have been wiped out by Yolanda, the world’s strongest storm at the time.

Male eagle Uswag and female Carlito were both rescued and rehabilitated at the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City.

Uswag (meaning “move forward”), adopted by CitiHardware, was rescued from Mt. Apo in December 2023. He has an airgun pellet lodged inside his left nostril.

Carlito, adopted by the Carl Balita Review Center, was rescued from Trento, Agusan del Sur, in 2022. She has two airgun pellets lodged in her wings.

Ibañez admitted that one of the biggest challenges of the translocation effort was the long travel, which normally stresses the raptors physically, especially during road bumps.

But during Tuesday’s flight, the eagles appeared comfortable as they were “sleeping like a baby.”

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“They were flying like [passengers in a] business class accommodation, [minus] the complimentary drinks,” Ibañez said.

TAGS: Leyte, Philippine eagle

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