The Philippine Eagle
The Philippine eagle, Pithecophaga jeffereyi, is the national bird of the Philippines. It is called by different names: Haribon (king of birds), monkey-eating eagle, and banog (a local name). It is only found (endemic) in four Philippine islands, namely, Samar, Leyte, Luzon, and Mindanao. It is among the rarest and critically endangered species of raptors in the world.
Appearance & Characteristics
It holds the title as the world’s largest eagle in terms of length. An adult female Philippine eagle has 3.36 ft average length while the shorter male adult has 3 ft average length. Although their wings are shorter compared to Steller’s Sea eagle, Wedge-tailed eagle, and Martial eagle, they are broader and have the largest surface area necessary for powerful flights. Average weight for the female is 7 kg while for the female is 5 kg.
Other characteristics of the Philippine eagle include a dark face, creamy-brown crown and nape, brown back, white under wings and underside, yellow heavy legs, powerful dark claws, blue-gray eyes, and bluish-gray deep beak. The bird can live 40 to 60 years in the wild. There is this belief saying that the Philippine eagle has a shorter life span in the wild than in captivity.
Habitat and Diet
The Philippine eagle lives in lowland and mountainous forests. It was thought that the eagle only eats monkey (the reason why it was originally called monkey-eating eagle) but later on it was determined the it also eats small mammals, lizards, snakes, and smaller birds.
Philippine Eagle Causes of Endangerment
Deforestation is the major cause of endangerment of Philippine eagle because it destroys the bird's natural habitat. The thousand hectares of forest that once used by the eagles to hunt for food and grow their young was lost due to intensive logging and slash-and-burn farming. The loss of habitat equals loss of food and starvation for the eagles. It also eliminates the tall trees used to build bests in and raise young.
Because of its rarity and astounding size, the Philippine eagle has been collected for zoos and private collectors at an expensive price. Some people even steal young eagles straight from their nests for sale to bird collectors.
Pollution is another cause of endangerment for the Philippine eagle. The prey of the eagle eats food contaminated with pesticides and toxic heavy metals which accumulate in their bodies over time. When the eagle eats its preys, the pesticides and heavy metals also accumulate in its body. A time will come that the toxic compounds reach a concentration or amount that is already fatal to the bird.
Other Reasons for Decline
The decline of Philippine eagle population is also caused by hunting. Farmers hunt the eagles for food and others shoot them just for fun and recreation.
People have been killing eagles for so many years without knowing that their population is not recovering from a high mortality rate. It takes 5 to 7 years for eagles to become sexually mature and capable to reproduce. Sadly, they are hunted before they reach their reproductive age. It is estimated that there are only 180 to 500 eagles left and most of them are in captivity. Due to their small number, they are nominated to the list of endangered species.
Conservation of Philippine Eagle
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the Philippine eagle on their list of critically endangered species on 2008. They are calling the efforts of the Philippine government and the Filipino people to conserve the eagle because it is nearing extinction.
Efforts for the conservation of the Philippine eagle started after foreigner Charles Lindbergh and Filipino biologist Dioscoro Rabor successfully persuaded the Philippine government that the bird is endangered. The Monkey-eating Eagle Foundation Conservation Program was established by the government on 1969 with the goal of preserving the endangered bird. The death of Lindbergh has weakened the foundation but through the initiative of Peace Corps volunteers and Parks and Wildlife Office of the government, preservation efforts for the eagle continued. The foundation was privatized on 1987 and its name was changed to Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc.
The Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc. (PEFI) in Davao City, Mindanao is working in the conservation of the bird as well as its habitats. The foundation has successfully bred eagles in captivity for more than a decade. Some of the captive birds under their protection were reintroduced in the wild. Through the hard works of the foundation, the population of the Philippine eagle is recovering.
PEFI continuously educates people on the importance of preserving the Philippine eagle as a national treasure. In its community-based resource management project, farmers are given cash incentives for protecting the birds in the wild. They are also trained for sustainable agriculture to mitigate the destructive slash-and-burn farming practice.
The Philippine eagle is protected by Philippine laws. Hunting, collecting, and trading Philippine eagle is punishable by fine and imprisonment. Strict implementation of laws protecting the Philippine eagle is still a big problem.