Rescued Philippine eagle “Salagbanog” or “Sarangani eagle” will be released on June 13, highlighting the Philippine Eagle Week celebration.
“As we commemorate our yearly observance of the Philippine Eagle Week, we are celebrating Salagbanog’s return to his forest home after 18 months of rehabilitation, an opportune time that this young bird would reunite with its kind,” said Acting Environment Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said in a news release.
With the theme, “Kapayapaan at Kalayaan: Ang Agila at Mamamayan, May Kaugnayan,” the Philippine Eagle Week celebration was held from June 4 to 10 as mandated by Presidential Proclamation 79, series of 1999.
According to Jayson Ibanez, Philippine Eagle Foundation’s director for Research and Conservation, the date of the eagle’s release on June 13, a day after the June 12 Philippine Independence Day, was determined after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local government units and PEF held a massive information, communication and education (IEC) drive, and consultations with residents of the six barangays within the release site.
“We talked to the communities and told them about the release, and appealed to them to help protect Sarangani [eagle],” he said.
Ibanez told the BusinessMirror that IEC campaigns are conducted by the PEF every time they release a Philippine eagle.
He said the eagle’s release is symbolic of the country’s celebration of the Philippine Independence Day.
“The conservation clamor for Philippine Eagle is also that of lasting freedom for our National Bird. Freedom from human harm, freedom from shooting, freedom from hunting, freedom deforestation that is destroying their homes. So I think it is not difficult to understand that like people, their way a life is freedom in the wild,” Ibanez said.
‘Fly Malaya Fly’
Besides Salagbanog’s release, DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) has also prepared other activities, such as interactive storytelling of the book, “Fly Malaya Fly.”
The activity will be live-streamed to Singapore at the Holy Family School of Excellence, a Filipino-run school for expats.
Students can watch the activity as part of the DENR’s conservation efforts to instil in them the awareness and appreciation of the Philippine eagle.
On June 4 and 5, tour guides were stationed outside the Philippine eagle exhibit at Jurong Bird Park (JBP), which is home to “Sambisig” and “Geothermica,” a pair of Philippine eagles loaned to Singapore.
They provided information to the park’s visitors about the Philippine eagle, the plight of the bird and their daily activities, among others.
Philippine eagle keeper Justin Huang will also post on JBP’s official Instagram account to give information on the daily activities of the birds.
Videos of the Philippine Eagle Foundation’s conservation efforts and the arrival of the birds to Jurong Bird Park were shown across the park’s tram stations from June 4 to 10.
DENR-BMB OIC Director Natividad Y. Bernardino emphasized the role of Filipinos as “responsible citizens to usher in a new era of commitment to save our threatened fauna, especially our National Bird.”
“We need to stand up and chart our path that will lead us to the next level of truly understanding the plight of our national bird,” Bernardino said.
Battle against loss of forest habitat
The Philippine eagle, with the scientific name Pithecophaga jefferyi, is considered a critically endangered species that is endemic to the country.
“Salagbanog’s capture was a testament to the Philippine eagles’ continuing battle on the loss of its forest habitat and a chance for the bird to get back up on its feet, survive and live out freely, thereby carving its own niche,” he said.
“The battle for these birds is undeniably our own battle too,” Sampuna added.
A ‘lucky’ survivor
Salagbanog was fortunate to have survived several attempts to its life, he said.
The eagle was rescued after being trapped with thorny rattan vines, while preying on a monkey at Salagbanog Falls in Barangay Ticulab, Maitum town, Sarangani province, on Janary 9, 2021.
An x-ray showed that a “big marble” was palpable under its skin, while a smaller pellet was detected on its right clavicle.
The marble was used in an improvised airgun as a bullet to shoot the bird.
The injuries inflicted on the bird also showed that the had probably occurred earlier and remained unnoticed until its capture.
Prior to Salagbanog’s release, a veterinarian checked its health that showed the bird was healthy and free from any disease.
Saranggani: A stronghold of Philippine Eagle
Ibanez said through the initiative of the Maitum Mayor Alexander Bryan B. Reganit, Salagbanog has been renamed as “Sarangani eagle,” to represent the reputation of the province as a stronghold of Philippine Eagle population.
“So far, since the 1990s, we have rescued a total of five Philippine eagles from the forest of Sarangani. And we know of at least three Philippine eagle nesting sites in [the province],” Ibanez told the BusinessMirror in an interview via Messenger on June 8.
According to Ibanez, because of the support of various stakeholders, particularly the communities in Sarangani province, the release of Sarangani Eagle will be the sixth within the pandemic.
He credited the support of the LGUs, the private sector, especially, the private citizens, who he described as like the “crowd funding” that strengthens the PEF’s Philippine eagle rescue and rehabilitation effort.
Like all Philippine eagles previously released by the DENR and the PEF, Sarangani eagle will be monitored through a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS).
“In this release, the Sarangani Energy Corp. and Siguil Hydro Power Corp. are providing funds for the purchase of radio and satellite transmitters for Sarangani eagle,” Ibanez said.
“We cannot release Sarangani without a GPS tracker. That is the only way we can monitor the bird and know that it is alive,” he added.
‘Help save PHL Eagle’
To those who continue to hunt birds of prey, particularly the iconic monkey-eating Philippine eagle, Ibanez made his appeal to help protect and save the eagle instead of risking prosecution.
He pointed out that hunting, harming, or harvesting of wildlife is illegal.
“We encourage wildlife hunters and those collecting biodiversity in the wild that there is an alternative. And that alternative is helping the nation preserve what remains of our natural resources,” he said.
“We have proven time and again that we can improve the lives of communities, including the hunters, through conservation. So we are encouraging them to participate in the conservation movement and see for themselves that it can actually help them with their other aspirations,” he said.
The Philippine Eagle, an apex predator, is an ecosystem indicator, Sampulna said.
The presence of the Philippine eagle in the country’s forests, he said, speaks of a sustainable and rich environment.
“Therefore, as we let go of a national treasure to give one more bird a chance to be free again, it should remind us that wildlife, just like people, have to fulfill their roles for the sustenance of life on earth,” he said.