Peña: The unusual ‘tourists’ in Singapore


SINGAPORE is a popular destination for many Filipinos, both for work and leisure. Recently, this island city-state country received unusual tourists, VIPs or rather VIBs (Very Important Birds) from the Philippines.

The VIBs are a pair of Philippine Eagles, Geothermica and Sambisig, who according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will play a crucial role as ambassadors for Philippine biodiversity. They will be brought to the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore under an agreement between the DENR and Wildlife Reserves Singapore. The 20-hectare bird park is Asia’s largest, providing home to around 3,500 birds across 400 species, of which 20 percent is threatened.

In addition to creating awareness about the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the wildlife loan agreement is a biosecurity measure to ensure the survival of the species and as a fallback population in the event of catastrophic events like disease outbreaks or extreme natural calamities taking place in their Philippine habitats.

Geothermica and Sambisig, aged 15 and 17 years old, respectively, are products of the conservation breeding program of the Philippine Eagle Center based in Davao City. I am lucky to have personally seen this facility in one of my visits to Davao. The DENR said that from 1992 to 2016, the Philippine Eagle Foundation has produced 28 captive-bred eagles at the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City, including Geothermica and Sambisig.

The Philippine eagle, also called “Haring Ibon”, is the country’s national bird. It is categorized as a critically endangered species or at high risk of extinction under the National List of Threatened Species and by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The giant forest raptor is endemic to the Philippines. It is considered as one of the largest and most powerful eagles in the world.

The Philippine Eagle is a long-lived species. A captive bird in the Rome Zoo was received full grown in 1934 and died in 1976, making it at least 41 years old at death. A male eaglet at the Philippine Eagle Center arrived as a young bird in 1969 and it's still alive and that makes it about 34 years old. It is still unknown how old eagles get in the wild.

The Philippine Eagle is also known as the monkey-eating-eagle. But this is inaccurate as monkeys are only a fraction of their diet. According to the Philippine Eagle Center, their food consists mostly of Flying Lemur (54 percent), Palm Civet (12 percent), Flying Squirrel (7.8 percent), snakes (6.6 percent) and other birds (7.8 percent).

Wild populations of the species throughout the archipelago remain uncertain with an estimated number of less than 400 pairs. Hunting and loss of forest habitat remain the primary threats to its survival. Thus, the DENR considers the Philippine Eagle as among its priority threatened species for conservation.


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