PHILIPPINE Eagle Pag-asa turned 18 last week.

The bird having reached the age of a debutante serves as a milestone to Davao City's continued hosting of an endeavor to save the environment.

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It also serves as a reminder of how the residents have already lost track of this scientific breakthrough in international conservation efforts, and are now clearing the mountains like there's no tomorrow.

Pag-asa is the first-ever Philippine Eagle bred and hatched in captivity. It was the first-ever raptor to have ever been hatched through artificial insemination.

Todate, the Philippine Eagle Foundation in Malagos, Calinan District hatched in captivity 21 other Philippine eagles either through artificial insemination or natural pairing of eagles in the center.

The battle to save the Philippine Eagle, as the PEF has repeatedly said through the decades fought, is not just about saving the eagles, but saving the region's ecosystem. Philippine eagles nest in dipterocarp trees, tall trees that only thrive in forested lands. Eagles cannot nest on banana plants, the same plants that are now taking over the slopes of the region's mountains. Thus, saving the eagles mean saving the forests and saving the whole ecosystem that has nurtured and nourished the people, and sheltered them from the wrath of nature.

Eighteen years since the bird broke of out its shell, the eagle center still has to achieve a breakthrough in their program to release eagles to the wild.

Eagle Kabayan, the first eagle in Asia that was bred in captivity released to the wild failed to make it there, not because it didn't know how to live in the forest. In fact, it manifested great strides in living and hunting on its own after it was released on Mt. Apo on Earth Day, April 22, 2004. But it had the misfortune of roosting on a high-voltage wire of the Philippine National Oil Company, which runs a geothermal plant on Mt. Apo, on January 8, 2005. The eagle instinctively knew how to survive in the wild, but didn't know anything about high-voltage.

Eagle Kagsabua, who was captured and rehabilitated at the center, was released back to the wilds in March 6, 2008. The bird was to have met his pair that was to be released after he settles in on Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon. But he was shot down with an airgun by a farmer five months later. While under rehabilitation at the eagle center, the PEF set up low-voltage wires in the eagle cage that would send minimal electric shocks to the bird whenever it roosts on the wire. After it was monitored that the bird was already staying clear of the wires, and after his injuries when he was first captured has totally healed, he was released back to the wild. Kagsabua was taught not to roost on power wires. He was not taught how to elude airgun pellets.

The travails of the eagles are like the travails of our never-ending battle for the environment. its ironic thought that while all these breakthroughs in the scientific world has been going on right in our city, some businessmen are trying to convince us that clearing our mountain slopes, including that of Mt. Apo, and planting all these with bananas and other cash crops is what will spell the difference in our future; a future of devastation, most likely.