Manila: The environment department is calling on support from other countries to help save from extinction the Philippine eagle, a bird of prey considered the country’s national treasure.
“As an endemic species, the Philippine eagle already serves as a global heritage that requires concerted efforts of the international community for conservation,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said as Filipinos mark the Philippine Eagle Week (PEW) on June 4-10.
Known as the largest of the extant eagles in the world in terms of length and wing surface, an adult Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) has a wingspan of 2.13 metres and a height of nearly a metre. It is an apex predator and plays an important role in keeping the balance of the ecosystem in check according to the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).
But despite their strong, dominating appearance, not a lot of the endemic birds of prey remain in the wild.
According to the PEF, the population of the species in the wild throughout the archipelago is estimated to number at only 400 pairs. Hunting and loss of forest habitat are being blamed as primary threats to its survival. Diseases such as avian influenza could also endanger its continued existence.
To increase the chance of survival of the species, the Department of Environment and Natural resources decided to “loan” a pair of the raptors to Singapore.
The Philippine eagles named Geothermica and Sambisig are due to leave for Singapore on June 4. The two raptors will stay at Jurong Bird Park, the largest bird park in Asia that is home to close to 3,500 birds across 400 species, of which 20 per cent are threatened.
“With millions of tourists flocking at the Jurong Bird Park, where our Philippine eagles will live, we are bringing them closer to the international community in the hopes of encouraging international attention and support for their conservation,” Cimatu said.
The plan to loan out the Philippine eagle had been mulled by the Philippine government as early as October 2017. However, it was only recently that another tropical country, Singapore, had committed to accept and care for a pair of the raptors.
Dennis Salvador, president of the Philippine Eagle Foundation earlier said that the San Diego Zoo in the United States had also aired intentions to take in a pair of the raptors.